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We working stiffs in the private sector wonder why so much fuss is being made about the psychological and psychiatric exams administered to the 22 candidates vying for the position of Chief Justice.
After all, human resources requires all prospective hires to undergo a battery of tests to determine fitness for employment, so if a lowly clerk is required to take a psych test, why not the highest-ranking magistrate of the land?
And why have such tests suddenly acquired a new significance?
The answer, I somewhat sheepishly admit, originates from the Ateneo de Manila School of Law, my alma mater, which in the early eighties graduated a promising young man named Florentino Floro.
Mr. Floro went on to take 12th place in the 1983 bar examinations with a score of 87.55, an achievement he was justifiably proud of, as could be gleaned from the calling cards he gave to anyone who was willing to receive them.
In 1995, he applied for judgeship before the Judicial and Bar Council, the constitutional body tasked to screen candidates for the judiciary. Unfortunately, he flunked a psychological evaluation conducted by the Supreme Court Clinic Services; he was deemed unfit for service after the SC Clinic found evidence of “ego disintegration” and “developing psychotic process.” Mr. Floro decided to withdraw his application.
In 1998, he applied anew; his evaluation, however, did not change. The Clinic again ruled that Mr. Floro had issues involving “self-esteem, mood swings, confusion, social/interpersonal deficits, paranoid ideations, suspiciousness, and perceptual distortions.” Again, he was ruled unfit to serve.
We working stiffs in the private sector would think that the second evaluation would have rendered Mr. Floro’s chances of becoming a judge as a one-in-a-billion. But that only meant there was a chance.
Mysteriously, the JBC reconsidered, citing the applicant’s academic record, and allowed Mr. Floro to submit a second opinion from private sector psychologists who gave him a thumbs-up. Thus, Mr. Floro became the presiding judge of Branch 73 of the Regional Trial Court of Malabon in November 1998.
And then the Honorable Judge Floro decided to commit an act of professional suicide four months into his judgeship.
An audit conducted by the Office of the Court Administrator at Mr. Floro’s personal request disclosed certain odd behaviors on the part of the judge that called into question his mental fitness.
The administrative case which followed took seven years to finish -- all the while, Mr. Floro was placed on preventive suspension -- until in 2006, the Supreme Court decided that there was no more room on the bench for Mr. Floro -- and “Luis.” And “Armand.” And “Angel.”
The case, Office of the Court Administrator v. Floro, is unusual for two reasons.
First, the writer of the opinion, Madame Justice Minita Chico-Nazario, was identified by name.
Usually, in administrative cases where the penalty imposed is dismissal, the writer of the decision is hidden under the heading “per curiam” on the belief that anonymity is thought to lessen the sting of the ultimate penalty imposed on a colleague by a colleague.
But in Mr. Floro’s case, the naming of Justice Nazario is connected to the second unusual thing, that is, he was not dismissed; instead, the dispositive portion of the decision states that he is “relieved” of his position. Unusual as these may sound, they are nothing compared to the facts recited in the decision.
It transpired that Mr. Floro, during the short time he was active as a judge, frequently solicited the help of “Luis,” “Armand” and “Angel.” The problem was that the three were no ordinary “amici curiae” (literally “friends of the court”) but elven folk.
Mr. Floro claimed to be the fifth-most powerful psychic in the country; that he could be in several places at one time; that he could heal; and that he likened himself to the “angel of death.” I reckon the investigating Justice and the ponente just about split their pants while studying this case.
Perhaps now you can understand the importance of the psych tests for the candidates. Lest a rogue psychic once more penetrate the ranks, the JBC isn’t taking any chances.
Which isn’t to say that Mr. Floro has ended his quest for vindication.
In his blog, he cast a Biblical curse and muttered mystic imprecations against his enemies and the judiciary. A September 2007 article from the Asian Wall Street Journal claims that “a series of disturbing incidents,” including a fire in the session hall which destroyed the Supreme Court crest and various accidents and illnesses befalling the Justices and their families, have so “rattled” the gods of Padre Faura that the Court en banc issued a resolution warning Floro against threatening the magistrates with “ungodly reprisals.”
Cue the creepy music.