MANILA – A Supreme Court justice vying to be the next Chief Justice said Wednesday premarital sex between unmarried people is immoral, citing religious beliefs.
“For me as a Catholic, it is immoral for 2 people to engage in premarital sex,” SC Associate Justice Jose Reyes, Jr. told the 4-member panel of the Judicial and Bar Council interviewing 4 applicants for the top magistrate post.
Reyes made the remark in response to retired Justice Noel Tijam’s query if the first-time CJ-applicant will declare constitutional a law banning premarital sex, which has been proposed in Indonesia.
Reyes did not directly answer the query but offered his views on marriage.
“A relationship between man and woman should end with marriage. Even as an individual, I would not allow relationship that is not based on law, moral or civil law, or canon law. It may not be legal to have a relationship without a blessing or compliance with the law,” he said.
Pressed however if he will strike down the law as unconstitutional, Reyes said it is “premature” to give his opinion on the issue, citing instead the Family Code which protects marriage.
He also said two consenting adults who live together may constitute adultery or concubinage, both punishable under the Revised Penal Code.
Reyes’ religious views was at the center of his interview.
A devout Catholic, Reyes is a lay minister and a board member of the Knights of Columbus. His religious activities, he said, earned him the monicker “bishop” when he was at the Court of Appeals.
“Being a member in religious organizations, my membership there constitutes a shield against corruption, against wrongdoings. They’ve been contributory to my success,” he said.
“I believe my religious belief, my religiosity has helped me a lot in pursuing my career in the judiciary. As a member of the Knights of Columbus, we have always been taught 2 commandments: love of God and love of neighbor,” he added.
Reyes’ religious beliefs manifested during the oral arguments in the Supreme Court on the third extension of martial law in Mindanao when he suggested prayer as a solution to unrest in the island.
“[O]ther than the economic solution, then perhaps we should start to pray. Maybe we have forgotten to pray,” he told Solicitor General Jose Calida in January this year.
Reyes eventually voted with the majority to uphold the third martial law extension.
For Reyes, his religiosity could even work to help him lead the judiciary, citing his leadership experience with the Knights of Columbus where he led as many as 122,000 members. He described himself as a “humble, compassionate and motivational” leader.
“I can go to the provinces to motivate the men and women in the provinces to work seriously, work compassionately, loving their jobs. Part of my task is to motivate. After all, a leader should learn to motivate his members,” he said.
ROAD TO SUPREME COURT
A native of Tacloban, Leyte, Reyes has political science and bachelor of laws degrees from San Beda College. He served as technical assistant to then-Chief Justice Felix Makasiar before moving to the Office of the Chief Attorney.
He then became a metropolitan trial court judge before becoming a regional trial court judge in San Mateo, Rizal in 1991.
He was named Court of Appeals associate justice in 2003 and was appointed to the high court by President Rodrigo Duterte on August 10, 2018.
He has consistently voted in favor of the President’s policies.
PLANS FOR SC
Asked about his plans for the Supreme Court, Reyes said he intends to prioritize the “well-being of the justices, court officials as well as rank-and-file employees in terms of healthy body, healthy mind, and healthy soul.”
“If appointed as Chief Justice, I plan to put up an exercise room in the SC just like what we have in the CA. Perhaps by undergoing regular exercise, proper diet and taking proper medicines, I will be able to cope with rigors of the work here,” he said, acknowledging challenges to his health.
“It is best that we continue monitoring not only the physical health but even mental health especially now that we a health card for SC employees,” he added.
Reyes said he will study the possibility of holding the Bar Exams in Manila, Cebu, and Davao although he recognized budgetary constraints.
He said he will convene the Judicial Integrity Board “to address concerns of judicial misconduct and to provide sanctions if necessary,” consistent with his stated focus to instill ethics among justices and lawyers.
“Being an academic justice, I am passionate about continuing with our judicial education but focusing on ethics, your honor. I want to have, I would love to see ethical judges, as much as we want to have ethical lawyers,” he said.
“Hopefully we can have a judiciary that is again independent, efficient and effective and we have a legal profession that is ethical your honor. We have a legal profession composed of ethical lawyers,” he added.