ACTING Civil Law Dean Roberto Abad has been included in the shortlist of candidates to fill up two vacant seats at the Supreme Court

Abad, a practicing lawyer, was first nominated by the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) to replace Associate Justice Ruben Reyes last January, but failed to make it to the shortlist. Sandiganbayan Presiding Justice and Civil Law professor Diosdado Peralta replaced Reyes on February.

This time, Abad is vying for one of the two vacant seats in the 15-man high tribunal left by Associate Justices Dante Tiñga and Alicia Austria-Martinez.

Abad said five other nominees submitted by the JBC were all “very competent.” Asked who were his toughest rivals for the post, Abad pointed to Sandiganbayan Associate Justice Francisco Villaruz and Court of Appeals (CA) Associate Justice Josefina Guevarra Salonga, describing the two as among the “most outstanding lawmen” of the land.

“Actually, most of them are very competent. But Villaruz and Salonga are the most outstanding on the list,” Abad said.

Abad has been in charge of Civil Law since Dean Alfredo Benipayo, a former solicitor general and election commission chairman, suffered a stroke in 2007. His acting status is expected to be lifted by the end of June.

Aside from Abad, Villaruz, and Salonga, other Supreme Court nominees are CA Associate Justices Martin Villarama Jr., Remedios Salazar-Fernando, and lawyer Rodolfo Robles.

Asked for his position on moves by the House of Representatives to convene a constituent assembly to amend the 1987 Constitution without the Senate, supposedly to keep the President in power, Abad said he wanted to keep an “open mind.”

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“I do not want to say anything about it because if by accident I am appointed to the Supreme Court, they might say I am biased. I might give a prejudicial statement so I want to keep an open mind,” he said.

But during an interview with the JBC in February, Abad said he favored charter change to shift to a parliamentary form of government from the presidential system, to make lawmaking more efficient.

Abad faced tough questions from then Justice Sec. Raul Gonzalez, who asked him questions over the Visiting Forces Agreement and the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea. “I think you should read on this more,” Gonzalez was quoted telling Abad.

During the interview, Abad said the Right of Reply Bill in Congress does not mean prior restraint and is “not a transgression of the freedom of the press.”

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