From a germ of an idea voiced by United States Justice Sandra Day O’Connor to Philippine Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Ameurfina A. Melencio-Herrera, for an organization in the Philippines to serve as a platform for women magistrates to voice out particular concerns regarding national and international matters, Justice Herrera solicited the opinion and support of the Philippine delegation to the 1987 ASEAN Women Judges Conference for the formation of an association composed exclusively of women judges and justices.
With her passion and dynamism, Justice Melencio-Herrera founded the Philippine Women Judges Association on September 5, 1987 and a month thereafter, on October 7, 1987, the PWJA was registered with the Philippine Securities and Exchange Commission. The stewardship of the PWJA has since been passed on to Supreme Court Associate Justice Carolina C. Griño-Aquino, Supreme Court Associate Justice Flerida Ruth P. Romero, Supreme Court Associate Justice Minerva Gonzaga-Reyes and Supreme Court Associate Justice Minita V. Chico-Nazario. Presently, Supreme Court Associate Justice Teresita J. Leonardo-De Castro heads the PWJA.
Despite the passage of time, the PWJA has remained true to the objectives of providing a platform for the exchange of views and information among women judges in the Philippines and in other countries, the promotion of the welfare of women judges in the Philippines, the improvement of the administration of justice toward the efficient management of courts and court dockets, to provide continuing legal education for its members, and to initiate and undertake judicial reforms.
On August 12, 1988, the PWJA submitted its recommendation to the Supreme Court for the adoption of mandatory continuous trials to ensure the speedy disposition of cases. The Supreme Court commended the PWJA in a Resolution dated November 3, 1988. On December 10, 1990, the recommendation was approved for implementation. Today, all Philippine courts are observing the mandatory continuous trial system.
The PWJA also pioneered the recommendation to computerize all courts, upgrade office equipment and court structures, provide for steady and adequate office supplies and increase the pay and benefits of court personnel. The Supreme Court has institutionalized these recommendations.
Before 1989, Philippine judges were only required to wear business suits during the conduct of court trials. On February 10, 1989, the PWJA passed a resolution requiring women judges to wear black robes during court hearings as befits the dignity and solemnity of court proceedings. Since that time, the wearing of black robes during court hearings has become mandatory for all Philippine judges. Newly-appointed judges are personally supplied, not only with the hammer and gavel, but with black robes, as well.
On the international scene, the PWJA is affiliated with the IAWJ, a non-stock, non-profit corporation with the same objectives as the PWJA -- the promotion of understanding and resolution of legal issues confronting women and women judges. Over the years the PWJA has gained recognition in the international legal community as an effective advocate of the protection of the rights of women and children. Several international institutions engaged in the same advocacy have tapped the involvement of the PWJA in their projects and activities.
The PWJA remains rooted in its charitable activities. It has donated basic necessities to women detention prisoners nation-wide. It donated two raw houses for indigent families through the Gawad Kalinga Foundation. Individually and as an organized unit, PWJA assisted the residents hardest hit by the typhoon “Ondoy” and the court personnel hit by typhoon “Sendong”. In 2010, the national correctional penitentiary for women in Mandaluyong City, Metro Manila, received a Christmas donation of supplies from PWJA. In March 2011, the inmates of Cebu Provincial Detention and Rehabilitation Center (CPDRC), Cebu City were the beneficiaries of PWJA’s donations. Internally, the PWJA has established the giving of benefits to the members and their families, subject to its financial capacity to do so. No separate fund account has, as yet, been established, albeit more than twenty member/families have received death benefits.
(Published March 2011)
- Amended By-Laws of the Philippine Women Judges Association.
- By-Laws of the International Association of Women Judges.
- The PWJA (A Brief History) by Judge Stella Dadivas-Farrales,
published in the PWJA 1994 souvenir program.
- History of the Philippine Women Judges Association (PWJA), Inc. by Judge Adoracion G. Angeles,
published in the PWJA 2001 souvenir program.
- Credo for Women Judges by Justice Ameurfina A. Melencio-Herrera.
- The Philippine Women Judges Association (PWJA) Inc. by Judge Ma. Belen Ringpis-Liban.
- IAWJ Asia Regional Meeting and Annual Convention of the Philippine Women Judges Association 2009