‘Habal-habal’ judge hopes to end his career on a high note; vies for SC post
A son of a fisherman is hoping to end his more than 40-year career in government service on a high note by trying his luck at the Supreme Court.
Court of Appeals Associate Justice Edgardo L. Delos Santos, a native of Palompon, Leyte has applied for the first time to the Supreme Court even if he is already among its most senior justices.
“I deferred to seniority since there were more senior justices. I did not apply. Later on, I realized that some applicants were more junior to me,” Delos Santos told members of the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC).
“This is the right time for me to try my luck at the Supreme Court since I am already 66 and has been in the government service for more than 40 years. I think it is a fitting note that I will end my government career on a higher level,” he added.
Delos Santos is among the 13 applicants vying for the position vacated by Ombudsman Samuel Martires who opted for early retirement.
His judicial career started when he worked as Court Legal Researcher for Judge Abelardo M. Dayrit in the Court of First Instance of Manila in 1978. He became the Regional Administrative Officer of the National Grains Authority the following year, but shortly thereafter re-joined the judiciary to serve as Technical Assistant and later Court Confidential Attorney of the then Supreme Court Justice Felix V. Makasiar.
At the age of 30, Justice Delos Santos became a Municipal Trial Court Judge in Dumaguete. He was later appointed Regional Trial Court Judge of Bacolod City and became well known for handling celebrated cases in the province.
In Dumaguete, he was given the monicker “habal habal” judge as he often used the “habal-habal” to bring his wife to work and his children to school.
“All of us in one motorcycle. If it rains, sorry for me, I have to drive my wife to PNB using a motorcyle and I’m wearing my barong,” he said.
He said it took them years before he and his wife could afford to buy a second-hand non-airconditioned L-300 van. He said they now have a Toyota Fortuner payable in five years.
Delos Santos said he was a hardworking judge handling three salas while serving as a regional trial court judge in Bacolod. A simple man who admitted he was nervous during the interview said he was reluctant in applying to the Court of Appeals, but his eldest son challenged him.
“My eldest son challenged me— you get appointed, and I will pass the Bar,” Delos Santos said. He now has two lawyer kids with one reviewing for the Bar.
“All these things I did primarily for my family,” he said.
However, even judges and justices undergo financial difficulty.
The JBC members asked him why he was sued for money even though the case has long been settled.
“Those were the years financially we were hard up,” Delos Santos said, referring to the closure of an educational insurance company in early 2000.
“My four children suffered. Three of my children [at] that time [were] in college,” he said, adding that he signed promissory notes so his children could continue their studies.
“For some, it may be degrading, but I signed promissory notes,” he said, adding that he never mentioned that he was a Court of Appeals justice to protect his profession.
He said it took his family two years to fully pay their obligations, including his loan at the Supreme Court.
“I did not reveal that I am a justice of the Court of Appeals to protect my profession,” he said adding that it took them two years to fully pay their obligations.
As a justice, he affirmed the conviction of a fratman in Cebu City for raping a 14-year-old girl. The high court also affirmed his decision on the Inawayan landfill case.
“We are not here to give favors but to dispense justice,” he said.
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