What retired SC justices do

The Constitution states, “Members of the Supreme Court and judges of lower courts shall hold office during good behavior until they reach the age of seventy years or become incapacitated to discharge the duties of their office.” Readers ask: What do Supreme Court justices do after they retire? Given their reclusive life on Mount Olympus, how do they adjust to “normal” life?

Another government job. My usual answer is: They just change tires to embark on a new journey. Life does not end at 70. With longer life spans than their predecessors a generation ago, retired justices can and do begin new careers. And yes, they too celebrate the New Year. They do not just stay home and sulk.

For one thing, some government offices require retirement from the Supreme Court as a qualification. Thus, to head the Mandatory Continuing Legal Education (MCLE) Office, one must be a retired SC justice. The incumbent MCLE chair is Justice Bernardo P. Pardo.

The Philippine Judicial Academy’s chancellor must likewise be a retired SC justice. The incumbent is Justice Adolfo S. Azcuna. Also, one of the four regular members of the Judicial and Bar Council must be “a retired member of the Supreme Court” (vacant since July 2013).

Some retired SC members go international, like the late Chief Justice Cesar Bengzon (International Court of Justice), Justice Florentino P. Feliciano (World Trade Organization Appellate Tribunal) and Justice Flerida Ruth P. Romero (International Labor Organization).

Some others land in constitutionally independent offices like the Ombudsman (incumbent: Justice Conchita Carpio Morales; Justice Conrado M. Vasquez, now deceased, was the first Ombudsman) and the Commission on Elections. Justice Jose A. R. Melo chaired the Comelec but voluntarily retired after the 2010 elections.

CJs Hilario G. Davide Jr. and Claudio Teehankee (deceased) served as ambassadors to the United Nations after retiring from the judiciary. CJ Reynato S. Puno is a member of the University of the Philippines Board of Regents.

Private office. In the private sector, a favorite retirement job is the deanship of law schools, like Justices Josue N. Bellosillo (Centro Escolar University), Minita Chico-Nazario (University of Perpetual Help), Alicia Austria-Martinez (Adamson University) and Angelina Sandoval-Gutierrez (Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila).

Others return to the law profession. Justice Serafin Cuevas practices not only in the regular courts but also in the Senate Impeachment Court (as lawyer for Joseph Ejercito Estrada and later for Renato C. Corona). The late CJ Andres R. Narvasa served as counsel also for Estrada.

Some SC members are choosy with their law practice. Examples: Justice Feliciano (after his WTO stint) appears only in the Supreme Court and in the international arbitration tribunals in Washington, Paris and Singapore; same is true for  CJ Puno who, together with retired Justice Vicente V. Mendoza, are lawyers for the Chamber of Mines of the Philippines in the current SC litigation challenging again the constitutionality of the 1995 Mining Law.

Many become directors of private firms, concurrent with their other jobs, like CJ Puno (San Miguel Corp., Union Bank), CJ Davide (Manila Bulletin, Philippine Trust), Justices Bellosillo (Philippine Trust), Gutierrez (Purefoods, Ginebra San Miguel), Melo (Fontana Resort, Citystate Savings Bank), Nazario (San Miguel Properties, Ginebra San Miguel), Consuelo Ynares-Santiago (San Miguel Global Power) and Jose C. Vitug (Aboitiz Equity Ventures and ABS-CBN).

My post-retirement journey. After I retired on Dec. 7, 2006, Inquirer Chair Marixi R. Prieto invited me to write for this paper. Former Senate President Jovito R. Salonga discouraged me from accepting, saying “No retired chief justice has become a columnist.” However, I thought that column writing would force my mind to be agile and enable me to share my humble views on public issues.

I was also elected an independent member or adviser of the boards of directors of some firms listed in the Philippine Stock Exchange. Under the law, my job as an independent director/adviser is to help the companies observe the canons of good corporate governance. I do not represent management or any specific shareholder or private interest.

I enjoy my work because it requires independence, integrity, probity and competence—values I was used to in the Supreme Court. Furthermore, my mind is refreshed by my study of the unique business practices and culture of these corporations.

I prefer not to practice law at this point in my life. So, I respectfully declined invitations to join the big law offices. (After I joined the Supreme Court, my partners and I dissolved our law firm.) Neither have I accepted any regular teaching job or offer to rejoin government.

But I am involved in a number of foundations, including as chair of the board of advisers of Metrobank Foundation (which searches for and rewards excellence especially among teachers, soldiers, policemen, artists and journalists); president of the Manila Cathedral Foundation (which raises funds for and oversees the reconstruction of the Manila Cathedral); chair of the board of trustees of the Foundation for Liberty and Prosperity (which, among other projects, created and administers 10 professorial chairs in 10 law schools); and chair emeritus of the Philippine Dispute Resolution Center (which promotes and conducts arbitration and mediation as alternatives to court litigations).

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