Dimaampao named SC justice, second Muslim in 34 years

By Ali G. Macabalang

Associate Justice Japar Dimaampao. (File)

COTABATO CITY – President Rodrigo Duterte has appointed Court of Appeals Associate Justice Japar Dimaampao to the Supreme Court, making him the second Muslim member of the High Tribunal after more than three decades.

Reports about Dimaampao’s appointment, though coming from sources not authorized to make any announcement, went viral in the social media like the Mindanao Tapatan Lane where over 10,000 nitizens aired praises in less than a day of posting.

The 58-year old Dimaampao, a Maranao from Marawi City, Lanao del Sur, will be the second Muslim SC associate justice 34 years after the late President Cory Aquino named to the High Tribunal Abdulwahid Bidin, a Tausog from the Sulu region.

President Duterte signed Dimaampao’s appointment paper on July 2, 2021, and Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea wrote a transmittal letter to Supreme Court Chief Justice Alexander Gesmundo on the same date. Images of the two documents leaked out in traditional and social media only on Monday night.  

Relatives and supporters of Dimaampao tried to persuade the Philippine Muslim Today not to publish news about the appointment for fear of a repeat of last year’s controversy. But they backtracked after two major dailies heralded the long-awaited news coupled with screenshot photos of the appointment and the transmittal letter.

Dimaampao, a topnotch bar reviewer from the University of the East College of Law, a bar examiner, law professor specializing in taxation, commercial and civil laws, has since 2016 been nominated five times by the Judicial Bar Council (JBC) as one of “top three” aspirants to SC.

In the 2020 JBC nomination, Dimaampao emerged as the No. 1 choice, too, of 14 sitting SC magistrates, 11 of whom reportedly voted for him.

In the first week of June 2020, news broke out that President Duterte had appointed Dimaampao. Palace Spokesman Harry Roque, in a telephone interview with this writer on June 8, said he “confirmed” having seen the President inking Dimaampao’s appointment paper.

But in the telephone interview, Sec. Roque said he would not make the official announcement unless he got hold of a copy of the appointment document.

This writer heralded the telephone conversation’s proceedings via social media. But no Palace announcement had followed, stirring flak from some Dimaampao’s relatives and supporters, who believed my report had preempted the release of the signed documents.

An exchange of barbs prompted this writer to write a column narrating some of his empirical experiences concerning a flimsy practice of “hiding of or missing” appointment papers in the Palace.

“Dimaampao’s sad fate reminded me of a sad experience in my three-month stint in the Palace in 1992 alongside now MinDA Secretary Manny Piñol and Blah Bagundang then of the Philippine Star,” I said in my 2020 column.

“While looking for a stapler in one of the tables at the office of the then Palace Spokesperson Anabelle Abaya, I stumbled on a piece of document, which I later found to be a signed appointment of former President Diosdado Macapagal in a government regulatory body. The paper was dated at least two months earlier,” I added.

The appointment eventually reached the Macapagal family after we exposed its stunted state and facilitated its release to a relative of the appointee. I was writing for the Philippine Daily Inquirer when it happened. (AGM)

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