Of the three top honors in the most recent Judicial Excellence Awards (JEA), two were bestowed by the Supreme Court on Regional Trial Court judges of Special Criminal Courts for Drug Cases. They are Judge Agustin Dizon of Branch 80 of the Quezon City RTC and Judge Myrna Dimaranan-Vidal of Branch 127 of the Caloocan City RTC.
Judge Dizon won the Chief Justice Ramon Avanceña Award, while Judge Vidal received the Chief Justice Jose Abad Santos Award.
Receiving the 2004 JEA has made him more careful in living up to people’s expectations, Judge Dizon admits. It has also filled up his schedule with speaking engagements in various Rotary Clubs nationwide.
The judge attributes the country’s persistent problem of drug abuse and drug-related offenses to irresponsible parenting, poverty and lack of adequate information. He stresses that young offenders are in his sala because their parents were somehow remiss in their responsibilities.
"The family is the basic unit of society. We cannot expect to have better citizens if we do not have better families and better parents," se says. That is also his message when he officiates at weddings.
Judge Dizon also laments that the present system is disadvantageous to young offenders and the poor. Because of the new law which raises the penalty from six to 12 years with no probation, regardless of quantity and quality of drugs, he reviews evidence conscientiously in order to protect the innocent.
"It is not the first time you hear that drugs can be planted and my policy on that is to apply the law but temper it with mercy, especially if you are dealing with the marginalized sector of society," he says.
Judge Dizon spent the best years of his life at the Bench. Appointed a Municipal Trial Court judge in 1972 at the age of 33, he became a Regional Trial Court judge in 1983 and was appointed to Branch 80 in 1993.
As an insider, he observes that our justice system is not perfect and explains by quoting Helena Blavatsky, "The most fertile source of all crime and immorality is the belief that it is possible for people to escape the consequences of their actions."
He believes that as a people, Filipinos can have total respect of the law if the doctrine of karma enters the mainstream consciousness. "When people are convinced that there is a law of exact compensation in the universe and it will operate whether the authorities catch up with them or not, they are not likely to commit crimes against society."
A native of Mexico, Pampanga and a gardener at heart, Judge Dizon believes that before one can aspire for perfect justice in the world, one should start planting ideas at home. As the Most Outstanding Capampangan for Parenthood in 2000, he is devoted to his wife Erlinda and his three grown-up children, Edilberto Eller (assistant manager at Nestle), Emily Rose (a physician at the University of Santo Tomas) and Alwin Aries (a graduate student in the Netherlands).
He says that everyday he tries to balance his judicial career and family life without sacrificing one for the other. "I strive to be a better man because life is short. I am always guided by the words of George Bernard Shaw that love is the only way one can be released from the bondage of the earth."
As a boss, Judge Dizon is known for his love for people, fairness and father-like patience. His assistant, Denia, shares, "I have been working with him for almost six years now, and he is like a father to me. Mabait at hindi madaling magalit yan si judge."
Judge Dizon explains that a true leader cares for his people and comes to the office ahead of time, not just on time, in order to gain respect and achieve efficiency in the workplace.
He proudly talks about his nomination by the Judicial and Bar Council to one of the vacant Associate Justice positions of the Court of Appeals. Going to the CA will be a dream come true, he says.
Judge Myrna Dimaranan-Vidal, Presiding Judge for the Special Criminal Court for Drug Cases at Branch 127 of Caloocan City, firmly believes that "justice delayed is justice denied." She has built a solid reputation for the prompt resolution of cases assigned to her, having been cited, among others, for "exemplary court management."
Also serving as Executive Judge, she has been commended by the Office of Court Administrator for her leadership which "has brought to fore the kind of service the Supreme Court would want our courts to exhibit and implement."
Judge Vidal has taken her courtroom experiences one step further by co-authoring with her husband the revised edition of the book, War Against Drug Abuse, a recommended resource material of the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency and the Dangerous Drugs Board.
As a student of the Far Eastern University, Judge Vidal was a consistent scholar and campus leader. After passing the bar examinations in 1962, she served as legal officer at the National Bureau of Investigation, where she later became Senior NBI Agent.
After a stint with the Quezon City Prosecutor’s Office, she joined the judiciary as RTC Judge of Caloocan City. It was here that she rose from being Second Vice Executive Judge, to First Vice Executive Judge, and now Executive Judge.
Not a first-timer to distinctions, she has been recognized as Outstanding Judge by the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption.
Undoubtedly, Judge Dizon and Judge Vidal are worthy Judicial Excellence Awardees.