Chancellor, Philippine Judicial Academy
Associate Justice (Ret), Supreme Court of the Philippines
Justice Adolfo S. Azcuna was born in Katipunan, Zamboanga Del Norte on February 16, 1939, the son of Felipe B. Azcuna and Carmen S. Sevilla. He received the degree of Bachelor of Arts, with academic honors, at the Ateneo de Manila in 1959 and the degree of Bachelor of Laws, cum laude, at the same institution in 1962. He was admitted to the Philippine Bar in 1963, placing 4th in the 1962 bar examinations. He forthwith embarked on a government career as Assistant Private Secretary of then Presiding Justice Jose P. Bengzon of the Court of Appeals in 1963 and, thereafter, upon the appointment of the latter to the Supreme Court in 1964, as his Private Secretary.
Justice Azcuna taught International Law at his alma mater, Ateneo de Manila, from 1967 to 1986. In 1982, he completed post-graduate studies in International Law and Jurisprudence at the McGeorge School of Law in Salzburg, Austria.
Representing Zamboanga Del Norte, he was elected as member of the 1971 Constitutional Convention. Subsequently, he was appointed as a member of the 1986 Constitutional Commission. He held several government posts during the term of President Corazon C. Aquino, first as Presidential Legal Counsel, then as Press Secretary and subsequently as Presidential Spokesperson. In 1991, he was appointed Chairperson of the Philippine National Bank. On October 17, 2002, he was appointed Associate Justice of the Supreme Court by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
In his Opening Remarks delivered at the Lecture Forum on the Writ of Amparo before the RTC judges of the NCJR on October 15, 2007, then Chief Justice Reynato S. Puno said, “In 1987, Justice Adolf Azcuna, then one of the commissioners tasked by President Corazon Aquino to draft the 1987 Constitution, embedded in its backbone a provision giving the Supreme Court the extra power to promulgate rules which would give life to the writ of amparo to protect the constitutional rights of our people. Through his initiative, the rule-making power of the Supreme Court was expanded to complement the awesome power of Congress to make laws. Historically, it is the parliament that protects the rights of people through its lawmaking power. Justice Azcuna allowed the Supreme Court to have a share in the exercise of this power by expanding its rule-making power.”
In 2007, Justice Azcuna was conferred the Metrobank Foundation Professorial Chair in International and Human Rights Law for which he delivered a presentation entitled, "International Humanitarian Law: A Field Guide to the Basics.”
Justice Azcuna retired from the Supreme Court on February 16, 2009 and was appointed, on June 1, 2009, Chancellor of the Philippine Judicial Academy, a post he currently holds.
Justice Azcuna's major publications include "International Sales of Goods," "Transnational Law Practice," "International Law Teaching in the Philippines," "Doing Business in the Philippines," "Foreign Judgment [Monetary] Enforcements in the Philippines," "Piercing the Veil of Corporate Entity: From Willets to Santos," "ASEAN Conflict of Law," "The Supreme Court and Public International Law," and his two Supreme Court books: “Seeing Reality in Today’s World” and “Seeking Justice in Today’s World.”
On November 12, 2012, Justice Azcuna delivered a presentation entitled, “The Writ of Amparo: The Philippine Experience So Far,” as the first recipient of the Founding Chancellor Emeritus Justice Ameurfina Melencio-Herrera Award for the Most Outstanding Professorial Lecturer.
On January 8, 2013, the Junior Chamber International (JCI) Senate Philippines and the Insular Life Assurance Co., Ltd. conferred to Justice Azcuna The Outstanding Filipino (TOFIL) Award for 2012 in the field of Justice/Law.
On February 14-15, 2013, he served as resource speaker in an Academic Seminar for Prosecutors and Judges in Nay Pyi Daw, Myanmar on The Prerogative Writs under their New Constitution which took effect in 2011. Subsequently, he represented the Philippines on February 28 to March 2, 2013, at the International Red Cross Asian Experts Conference in Bangkok.
As a holder of the Chief Justice Artemio V. Panganiban Professorial Chair on Liberty and Prosperity, Justice Azcuna delivered a presentation titled, “Supreme Court Decisions on the Economic Provisions of the Constitution” on April 18, 2013 at the Ateneo School of Law.
The International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) has elected Justice Azcuna as one of its five new commissioners for a term of five years from August 12, 2014 to August 11, 2019. The ICJ is dedicated to ensuring respect for international human rights standards through the law. Commissioners are known for their experience, knowledge and fundamental commitment to human rights [http://www.icj.org].
The Ateneo Law School in coordination with the Philippine Association of Law Schools, and the Embassy of Spain in the Philippines invited Justice Azcuna to speak on the International Scientific Congress on Private Law of the Philippines and Spain. He presented a Paper on “The Constitutional Function of Human Rights Principles within the Context of Private Law in the Philippines,” on June 14, 2016, Ateneo Professional Schools Building, Rockwell Center Makati City.
Justice Azcuna attended and delivered a Paper entitled “The Philippine Malolos Constitution: A Pioneering Asian Democratic Charter” at the Konrad-Adenauer Stiftung (KAS) Forum on Constitutionalism in Asia held in Singapore on June 28-29, 2016.
On September 27, 2016, the Ateneo de Manila University on its 2016 Traditional University Awards conferred with Justice Azcuna the highest award, the Lux-in-Domino Award. The Lux-in-domino Award is a capstone award that requires the crowning achievement of both life and work, given to an extraordinary individual who has incarnated in life, and perhaps even in death, in an outstanding and exemplary manner, the noblest ideals of the Ateneo de Manila University. “For living as a selfless public servant who puts country before self and as a man of deep faith whose devotion to his family is unchanging; for devoting more than 50 years of his life to judicial work, driven by a commitment to the delivery of justice; for ensuring the protection of every Filipino’s constitutional right to life, liberty, and security through the writ of amparo; for lighting a path of excellence, service, and probity that young Filipinos and Ateneans may follow.”
On September 29, 2016, Justice Azcuna delivered his public lecture for the 2016 Traditional University Awards entitled “TRAINING THE JUDICIARY – THE PHILIPPINE EXPERIENCE 1996-2016” at the Ateneo Law School, Rockwell Drive, Makati City.
Justice Azcuna is married to Maria Asuncion Aunario, Dean of Liberal Arts and Sciences at St. Scholastica's College. They are blessed with four children and four grandchildren.
Vice Chancellor, Philippine Judicial Academy
Retired Associate Justice, Supreme Court of the Philippines
Justice Mariano C. del Castillo belongs to the Ateneo de Manila University’s Law School Class of 1976. He earned his degree of Bachelor of Arts, Major in Political Science, in 1971 from San Beda College, where he garnered second honors and was awarded a silver medal in his junior year. After embarking on private practice and a brief stint in banking and the corporate world, Justice del Castillo joined the Judiciary in 1989 as Municipal Trial Court Judge of San Mateo, Rizal. He was promoted as a Regional Trial Court Judge of Angeles City in 1992; and, in 1995, he became Regional Trial Court Judge of Quezon City where he was appointed as First Vice-Executive Judge.
Justice del Castillo actively served in the Philippine Judges Association from 1993-2001 as a Director, Vice President for Administration, Senior Vice President, and Executive Vice President. He held various positions and actively participated in religious and civic organizations as well as non-government institutions. Likewise, he engaged in relief operations for the benefit of indigenous groups and programs for the youth. For these, Justice del Castillo received various awards and distinctions which include the Gawad Rizal from the Order of the Knights of Rizal in 1995. Between 1991 and 1995, he was awarded certificates and plaques from Kiwanis Cainta and Kiwanis Angeles, including the “Presidential Merit Award for Outstanding Active Member” and the “District Excellence Award for Outstanding Club President” in 1992 by the Rotary Club of Angeles, and by the Rotary Club of Cubao. In 1994, he was given recognition by the Philippine National Police Angeles Metropolitan District Command through certificates of appreciation and awards for his judicial excellence, support, and contribution to the attainment of its mission. In 2001, he served as Governor of Legal for the Bel-Air Village Association.
He has been involved in the academe first as a lecturer in Legal Ethics at the Centro Escolar University from 1977-1979, then, as professor of Practice Court 1 & 2 at the Ateneo de Manila School of Law from 2002-2006, and as a lecturer in Legal Ethics & Practical Exercises in a number of Mandatory Continuing Legal Education (“MCLE”) Programs conducted by various legal training institutes when he was a Justice of the Court of Appeals. Subsequently, he became a pre bar reviewer in Legal Ethics. In 2007, he also became a member of the PHILJA Corps of Professors in Legal Ethics.
In August of 2001, Justice Del Castillo was appointed to the Court of Appeals where he eventually became the Chairperson of its 11th Division. In 2005, he was conferred the “Justice George A. Malcolm Award” by the Rotary Club of Manila as “Best Performing Court of Appeals Justice.” In 2006, he was recognized by the Presiding Justice of the Court of Appeals for his outstanding performance and his zero backlog status in case disposal, an honor he maintained until his appointment to the Supreme Court. He also served as the Editor-in-Chief of the Court of Appeals Journal from 2006 up to his appointment to the Supreme Court.
On July 29, 2009, Justice Del Castillo was appointed as the 164th Justice of the Supreme Court. Upon his appointment, he was designated by then Chief Justice Reynato S. Puno to take charge of the Enhanced Justice on Wheels Program or “EJOW,” which utilizes custom built buses to serve as mobile legal clinics. From 2004 to May 2019, the EJOW Program facilitated the dismissal of 6,220 cases, successfully mediated 13,824 cases, and caused the release of 10,254 inmates who, at a 65 peso daily subsistence allowance for each inmate, translates to 666,510 pesos per day in savings for the government.
In the Supreme Court, Justice del Castillo also served as a Chairperson of the Committee on Human Rights and International Law from 2010-2011. He was a member of the House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal from December 29, 2016 to December 31, 2018 and was the Chairperson of the 2018 Bar Examinations. From November to December 2018, he served as the Acting Chairperson of the Judicial and Bar Council which screened and conducted public hearings for the nominees to succeed Chief Justice Teresita J. Leonardo de Castro. He was also Chairperson of the Foreign Travel Committee and the Integrated Bar of the Philippines Oversight Committee. He was a member of the Senate Electoral Tribunal as well and the working Chairperson of the First Division.
In his decade long tenure as a member of the Supreme Court, Justice del Castillo has conscientiously devoted himself to resolving cases with the same zeal and passion for justice as when he began his career in the Judiciary. From July 2009 to July 2019, his office disposed of 5,681 cases, as per certification dated May 6, 2019, issued by the Clerk of Court En Banc. Since May 2016, Justice del Castillo has achieved and maintained zero backlog status in his en banc cases; and, as of April 2, 2019, he had disposed of all his en banc cases, with zero pending status. Per certification dated April 16, 2019, issued by the Division Clerk of Court, since December 2017, Justice del Castillo has achieved and maintained zero backlog status in his Division cases, and, as of March 27, 2019, he had no more division cases that would possibly remain undecided beyond the constitutionally prescribed 24-month period for resolving cases until his retirement on July 29, 2019.
His decisions and opinions have contributed to the growth and development of jurisprudence and have enriched the deliberations of the Supreme Court. These include Lagman v. Medialdea, where the Court, for the first time, laid down the parameters of and the burden of quantum of proof in a petition to challenge the sufficiency of the factual basis of the declaration of Martial Law and the suspension of the privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus, under Section 18, Article 7 of the Constitution; Commissioner of Internal Revenue v. Aichi Forging Company of Asia Inc., where the Court, to help guide the bench and the bar, delineated the prescriptive periods and the proper manner of counting thereof, as well as the order of and period for the filing of judicial and administrative claims for refund of input VAT in zero rated sales; Manila Memorial Park Inc. v. Secretary of DSWD, where the Court broke new grounds in police power and eminent domain analysis in upholding the pricing regulatory scheme under the Senior Citizens Discount Law; and Imbong v. Ochoa, where the Court, in defense of the life of the unborn, adopted Justice del Castillo’s view in his concurring and dissenting opinion, that contraceptives with secondary action or fail safe mechanisms as sanctioned by the Implementing Rules of the Reproductive Health Law violated the sui generis constitutional right to life of the unborn.
In November 2020, the Chief Justice summoned him from his retirement from the Court on July 29, 2019 and encouraged him to apply for the position of Vice-Chancellor of PHILJA. The Supreme Court en banc appointed him to said position on November 6, 2020 upon the recommendation of the PHILJA Board of Trustees.
Executive Secretary, Philippine Judicial Academy
Justice Buzon obtained her Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Laws degrees from the University of the Philippines in 1963 and 1967, respectively, and passed the Bar Examinations also in 1967. Her work experiences include: Researcher in the Concepcion, Balajadia and Victorino Law Office; Researcher in the Court of Appeals; Chief Legal Officer and Special Prosecutor in the Office of the Tanodbayan; Judge of the Regional Trial Court, Branch 170, Malabon and Branch 91, Quezon City; and Associate Justice of the Court of Appeals until her early retirement on March 19, 2008.
Justice Buzon was Bar Examiner in Legal Ethics and Practical Exercises in the 1992 Bar Examinations. In 1995, she was recognized by the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) Quezon City Chapter as One of the Ten Most Outstanding Judges of Quezon City and received an Award for Judicial Excellence from the Rotary Club of Metro Sta. Mesa. She was also given Plaques of Distinction by the UP Women Lawyers Circle (WILOCI) in 1987 and 1997.
Currently, Justice Buzon is the Executive Secretary of the Philippine Judicial Academy and Acting Chief of Office of the Philippine Mediation Center Office.
Chief of Office for Academic Affairs
Judge Thelma Allena Ponferrada was born on November 24, 1948 to Diego A. Allena Sr., a lawyer, and Trinidad Astorga Allena, a public school district supervisor, who both hailed from Zumarraga, Samar.
She received her primary and secondary education in Catbalogan, Samar, where she was the Valedictorian of the Samar High School Class of 1963. She graduated from the University of Santo Tomas, magna cum laude , with the degree of Bachelor of Arts in 1967, and from the University of the Philippines with the degree of Bachelor of Laws in 1971.
Upon passing the 1971 Bar Examinations with a rating of 84.3 percent, she embarked on a private law practice until 1975 when she joined the government service, initially in the Legal Department of the Office of the President as Legal Officer III, then held other legal positions, the last of which as Presidential Staff Legal Officer prior to her appointment to the Judiciary.
Having successfully taken the examination conducted by the Department of Justice at the opening and concluding sessions of the three-day Judiciary Reorganization Implementation Seminar (JURIS) in 1982, she was appointed in January 1983 as Presiding Judge of the Metropolitan Trial Court of Manila, Branch 18, at age 34. She was chosen as one of the five outstanding Metropolitan/Municipal Trial Court judges (MeTC/MTC) by the Integrated Bar of the Philippines in 1988, and the lone recipient of the Jose Abad Santos Award for Judicial Excellence for the MeTC/MTC category in 1992. In March 1997, she was promoted as Presiding Judge of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) of Quezon City, Branch 104. A year later, she received from the Philippine Women Judges Association the award as Best Decision Writer for the RTC category.
She had the opportunity to serve as Executive Judge of the MeTC of Manila and the RTC of Quezon City. In 2012, she was both a Bar Examiner in Criminal Law and an Ulirang Ina Awardee for Law and Judiciary.
She is married to Sandiganbayan Associate Justice (ret.) Rodolfo A. Ponferrada and blessed with four children, namely, Rodolfo Ma. (lawyer), Ma. Carmela (surgeon), Regidor (lawyer) and Rodney (management consultant).
After 26 years of service in the Judiciary, she changed her career path from adjudication to judicial education by joining the Philippine Judicial Academy.
Chief of Office, Research, Publications and Linkages Office, PHILJA
Professor Sedfrey M. Candelaria heads the Research, Publications and Linkages Office of the Philippine Judicial Academy (PHILJA), chairs its Department of Special Areas of Concern, and belongs to the PHILJA Corps of Professors.
Professor Candelaria was appointed Dean of the Ateneo Law School in February 2012, where he teaches Constitutional Law, Public International Law, Indigenous Peoples and the Law, Children’s Rights, and International Economic Law. He also teaches at the Political Science Department, European Studies Program and University for Peace-Consortium of the Ateneo de Manila University.
He is the current president of the Philippine Association of Law Schools and a member of the Mandatory Continuing Legal Education Board of the Philippines. He also sits as a member of the Subcommittee on Admission to the Bar, and the Subcommittee on Maintenance of Membership in the Philippine Bar, both of the Supreme Court’s Committee on Continuing Legal Education and Bar Matters.
A Fellow of the Commonwealth Judicial Education Institute (CJEI) in Dalhousie University, Halifax, Canada, Dean Candelaria has also authored several articles on constitutional law, law and economic development, judicial education, peace process, human rights, and international law. He has edited and conducted researches for UNICEF, ILO, UNHCR, UNDP and APEC Study Center.
He obtained his Master of Laws degree at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada, and his Bachelor of Laws degree at the Ateneo Law School. He has also been conferred the Diplomate in Juridical Science by the San Beda Graduate School of Law.
Dean Candelaria was actively involved in some celebrated test case litigation before the Supreme Court notably the Asia-Pacific Conference on East Timor, Davide Impeachment, IPRA and the GRP-MILF MOA-AD.He was also engaged as Peace Panel Member in the past peace negotiations with the CPP/NPA/NDF and MILF under the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process.
During the 2010 Bar Examinations, Dean Candelaria was an examiner in Political and Public International Law.
PHILJA Chief of Office for Administration
Atty. Elmer DG. Eleria is currently the PHILJA Chief of Office for Administration. At one time, he was designated as the Acting Head of the Academic Affairs Office and the Concurrent Head of the Administrative Office.
Atty. Eleria obtained his Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and Bachelor of Laws from Saint Louis University in Baguio City. He likewise took up a certificate course on Learning Design and Evaluation in the Research and Development of the Ateneo De Manila University Center for Organization.
Prior to his employment in PHILJA, Atty. Eleria was an Associate Lawyer in Anarna Law Office and a Human Resource Manager in Estrada (CB Balingit) Group of Companies.
In 2008, he started his career in PHILJA as Attorney III in the Office of the Vice Chancellor until his appointment in 2009 as the SC Chief Judicial Staff Officer in the Administrative Office.
Given the recognition as the 2014 PHILJA Employee of the Year, he has been involved in PHILJA Committees such as the Supreme Court Data Reconciliation Committee, PHILJA Management Committee, PHILJA Training Center Executive Committee and Benchbook Revision Committee. He was likewise assigned to represent PHILJA in various committees in the Court
He attended the World Judiciary Transformation Framework and Metrics held on August 18-19, 2016 in Bangkok, Thailand, as nominated by the PHILJA Chancellor, Justice Adolfo S. Azcuna. In 2017, he was one of the PHILJA delegates who participated in the International Exchange Program at the Federal Judicial Center, Washington D.C. USA and the National Center for State Courts, Virginia, USA.
He is a Guest Professorial Lecturer of the De La Salle University Dasmariñas where he teaches Business Laws for Accountancy students, specifically, Obligation and Contracts, Law on Business Organizations, Negotiable Instruments Law, Law on Sales, Agency and Credit Transactions.
He is married to a law school classmate, Atty. Corazon F. Arafol-Eleria who is now working as a Supreme Court Attorney. They have a wonderful boy, Ezekiel.
Chief of Office, Philippine Mediation Center Office
Judge Mona Lisa V. Tiongson-Tabora graduated with honors at the St. Paul College of Manila earning a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration degree in 1981. Two years later, she married her college sweetheart, Engr. Antonio R. Tabora, Jr., a former Vice Mayor and 3-term Councilor of Baguio City.
A mother of five and grandmother of four, Judge Tabora completed her Bachelor of Laws degree at the top of her class, graduating valedictorian and cum laude at the Baguio Colleges Foundation (now known as the University of the Cordilleras) in 1991. After passing the Bar Examinations given that year, she worked with Baguio City Mayor Mauricio G. Domogan as Secretary to the Mayor. A year later, she was appointed as Branch Clerk of Court of the Baguio City Regional Trial Court (RTC), Branch 60 and served in such capacity for nine years.
She completed and passed the first Pre-Judicature Program of the Philippine Judicial Academy held in 2000 attended by 100 participants.
Appointed to the bench in 2002, she first served as Presiding Judge of the Municipal Circuit Trial Court of San Juan-San Gabriel, La Union. Three and a half years later, she was promoted to Branch 26 of the RTC of San Fernando City, La Union. Stricken with cancer after her promotion, she continued to work and even presided over two courts, while undergoing chemotherapy, as she was designated as Acting Presiding Judge (APJ) of Baguio City RTC Branch 7. In 2008, she was eventually transferred to the said court in a permanent capacity. In 2011, she served as Assisting Judge of Mandaluyong City RTC Branch 209. In November 2012, she was designated as APJ of RTC Manila, Branch 21 (Tax Court) on a full-time basis for two and a half years, and she concurrently served as APJ of RTC Manila, Branch 5 (Family Court). She was also designated as Acting Presiding Judge of RTC Makati, Branch 149 (Commercial Court) from April 2014 to February 2015 while serving as Pairing Judge of RTC Manila, Branch 22 for five months. She then returned to her regular court in Baguio City in March 2015.
Before her retirement effective July 1, 2019, Judge Tabora received extensive training in mediation as her courts in San Fernando City, La Union and Baguio City were designated as pilot courts when the Alternative Dispute Resolution Juris Project, sponsored by the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), was first rolled out in 2006. After completing the Trainor's Training Course on Cybercrime sponsored by the European Union, which was implemented by the Council of Europe in tandem with the Department of Justice, she volunteered as resource speaker for the Office of Cybercrime –Department of Justice.
PHILJA Chief of Office
for Training Center (General Manager)
PHILJA Training Center Office
Mr. Romulo M. Abancio, Jr., is the PHILJA Chief of Office (General Manager) for Training Center (PTC), PHILJA’s state of the art facility for its training programs and activities. Prior to his appointment on November 18, 2020, he was the SC Chief Judicial Staff Officer (SC CJSO) of the Corporate Planning Division (CPD), Administrative Office.
A Six Sigma Green Belt Certified and Career Executive Service Officer (CESO), Mr. Abancio earned his Bachelor of Science in Biological Science degree at the West Visayas State University in Iloilo City and his Master of Arts in Governmental Management degree at the Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila (PLM). He also took units in Doctor in Public Management at PLM, units in law at the Arellano University School of Law and units in Hotel and Restaurant Management at the City College of Tagaytay.
A career employee, Mr. Abancio started working in the government as Clerk IV in the then Judicial Reforms Committee now Philippine Mediation Center Office, and later as Executive Assistant IV under Chancellor Justice Ameurfina A. Melencio Herrera. He was appointed on April 1, 2004, as the first PMC Unit Supervisor in Bacolod City, where he received a commendation for proposing and preparing the Guidelines for the Establishment of PMC Units and the criteria for the selection of sites. On October 1, 2004, he returned to the Office of the Chancellor as Executive Assistant V, until his promotion as SC CJSO of the CPD on March 26, 2008.
In August 2011, prior to the commencement of PTC operations, Mr. Abancio completed his training in hotel operations for housekeeping, security, sales and marketing, engineering, and purchasing at the Linden Suites.
He received the 2015 Philippine Judicial Academy Chancellor’s Award, the 2010 Communications Excellence Award, and the 2019 Commitment to Service Award under the Supreme Court’s Program on Awards and Incentives for Service Excellence (SC-PRAISE). He was also a finalist of the SC-PRAISE for Innovation (2010) and Leadership (2019) Awards.
He is happily married to Ms. Joyce Parra Abancio, currently working as Officer-in-Charge of the Cash Division, PHILJA Finance Office. They are blessed with one daughter, Santhia Gabrielle P. Abancio.