After 26 years, the Supreme Court (SC) now has a Muslim magistrate — Associate Justice Japaar B. Dimaampao, a Maranao from the Bangsamoro Region and the first lawyer-certified public accountant appointed to the High Court.
The first Muslim magistrate was the late Associate Justice Abdulwahid A. Bidin who served the SC from 1987 to 1995.
Justice Dimaampao took his oath of office last Sept. 14.
At the time of his appointment to the SC, Justice Dimaampao was the No. 3 associate justice of the Court of Appeals (CA) where he served for 17 years. Before his CA stint starting at age 40, he was a prosecutor and a regional trial court (RTC) judge.
For the past two decades, various Muslim and non-Muslim groups and individuals have been pushing for the appointment of a Muslim associate justice to the 15-member SC in line with the 1976 Tripoli Agreement, the GRP-Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) Peace Agreement of 1996, and Republic Act No. 9054, the 2001 law on the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).
The agreements and the law mandate a Filipino-Muslim representation in the SC. The appointment of Justice Dimaampao to the SC fulfilled that mandate.
Born in Marawi City on Dec. 27, 1963, Dimaampao is expected to serve the SC until 2033 when he turns 70, the mandatory retirement age for members of the judiciary.
He is a known expert in civil, taxation and commercial laws, and on Shari’a and Islamic jurisprudence.
He was a graduate of the University of East (UE) College of Law. He taught law at his alma mater, San Beda College of Law, University of Santos Tomas Faculty of Civil Law, and De La Salle University College of Law, among other universities.
He was a consistent honor pupil at the Camp Keithley Elementary School and a full scholar at the Mindanao State University in high school. He was also a government scholar when he finished his accounting degree at UE and passed the licensure examinations for certified public accountants in 1983. He was a dean’s lister at UE College of Law and passed the bar examinations in 1988.
Among his numerous designations in the judiciary, Justice Dimaampao was a member of the Committee on Bar Examinations in Commercial Law and Taxation. He was the 2013 and 2016 Bar Examiner in Civil Law, and the 2019 Bar Examiner in Taxation. He was also the 2006 Shari’ah Bar Examiner on Succession, Wills, Adjudication and Settlement of Estate, and was the Chairperson of the 16th Special Shari’a Bar examinations held in 2020.
During the same JBC interview that led to his nomination, Justice Dimaampao said that once appointed he would work for some revisions to the Shari’a rules and help implement Bangsamoro justice under Republic Act No. 11054, the Organic Law for the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.
On his persistency to apply for a post in the SC, Justice Dimaampao said: “I applied again for the 14th time because of my firm belief and conviction in two Koranic injunctions. First, indeed God is with those who patiently persevere. Second, God is the final disposer of affairs. Likewise, your honor, I find optimism in the all-saying ‘Hope springs eternal.’ In the fullness of time, God will grant one’s plea.”
Indeed, God granted his plea.
Justice Dimaampao is the son of the late Magdara B. Dimaampao, former commissioner of the Commission on Elections and former Ambassador to Iraq, and the late Babay T. Dimaampao.
He is married to Maria Gina P. Villapane of Mainit, Surigao del Norte.