The story of the Philippine Judicial Academy (PHILJA), the Court’s educational and training arm for judges and court personnel, is inextricably linked with the establishment of its training center in Tagaytay City.
In the words of the Chief Justice finally destined to see the completion of the latter, Reynato S. Puno: “The records will bear out that PHILJA came from the womb of the Ridge Sports and Country Club Corporation (RSCCC). Sometime in 1993, during the stewardship of the judiciary by Chief Justice Andres R. Narvasa, the High Court was scouting for a place that will serve as the home of a judicial academy, the creation of which was endorsed by Madame Justice Ameurfina A. Melencio Herrera [PHILJA’s first Chancellor and now Chancellor Emeritus]. As fate would have it, the RSCC was scheduled for privatization by the government. The RSCCC had 2,000 shares of no par value. Of these, 1,100 shares (or 55%) were owned by the Human Resources Development Corporation (HRDC), and 900 by some 720 private individuals. The problem of how to transfer the government shares to the Supreme Court was given to then Presidential Legal Counsel, now Justice Antonio T. Carpio and Atty. Evener Villasanta, former President of the Philippine Bar Association, for solution. It was then President Fidel V. Ramos who, in 1995, assigned the HRDC shares at no cost to the Supreme Court. By that stroke of the pen, the door was opened by PHILJA to go for some of the private shares of stock of the RSCCC. Although a private corporation, Ridge was not lacking in good souls and with God’s grace, the Supreme Court, in due time, obtained a super majority control of Ridge through the magnanimous donations of the latter’s stockholders.”
The Court may have obtained ownership of the Ridge alright, but an appropriate building for training still had to be built as the Ridge Convention Center was a clubhouse-type facility and could only accommodate up to 60 persons. With the help of the Embassy of Japan and the Department of Finance, the PHILJA was finally able to obtain funds for its training center through the Japanese Government’s Non-Project Grant Assistance.The Supreme Court then created the PHILJA Development Center - Project Implementation Committee to oversee implementation of the project.
Finally, overcoming budget issues and delays in construction, the PHILJA Training Center was inaugurated last May 7. Highlighting the occasion’s importance were the respective presence of no less than three Chief Justices, Andres R. Narvasa, Artemio V. Panganiban, and Puno; President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo; Chancellor Emeritus Melencio Herrera; the Japanese Ambassador, His Excellency Makoto Katsura; and Tagaytay Mayor Abraham N. Tolentino, as well as other notables.
All were warmly welcomed by PHILJA Chancellor Adolfo S. Azcuna who, in his opening remarks, stressed the cooperation that made possible the completion of the training center.
In his keynote address, Chief Justice Puno also singled out as deserving of thanks retired Chief Justices Narvasa and Panganiban, as well as Chief Justice Hilario G. Davide, Jr.; the Japanese International Cooperation Agency in behalf of the Japanese Government; President Arroyo for her support in securing the funds for the project; the members of the PHILJA Development Center - Project Implementation Committee who had labored for three years; Chancellor Emeritus Melencio Herrera; and Chancellor Azcuna, “together with the men and women of PHILJA who make up the Academy’s greatest resource.”
The noted architect Frank Lloyd Wright once remarked, “The space within becomes the reality of the building.” With the structure of its training center now in place, it will be up to the men and women of PHILJA to create and renew the reality thereof in the years ahead.