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United Methodist is top justice in the Philippines

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Chief Justice Reynato S. Puno
Dec. 14, 2006

By United Methodist News Service

The new chief justice of the Supreme Court of the Philippines is a United Methodist lay preacher.

Chief Justice Reynato S. Puno, 66, was sworn into office by Philippines President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo on Dec. 7, according to the court's official Web site. He was the most senior of the court's 14 associate justices and replaces Artemio Panganiban.

The Manila native is the administrative council chairman of Puno Memorial United Church and formerly led the administrative board at Knox United Methodist Church.

In a statement, Puno thanked the President for the appointment and thanked "the Almighty for this extraordinary gift, more accurately, this trust, which is heavily laden with responsibility."

Puno said he was aware of "the defining role" of the judiciary in the life of the Filipino people. "The judiciary may not have the power of the sword, may not have the power of the purse, but it has the power to interpret the Constitution, and the unerring lessons of history tell us that rightly wielded, that power can make a difference for good."

The new chief justice pledged "to espouse no ideology but constitutionalism, to uphold no theology but the rule of law." He said he put his trust in God to bring "fair justice to all."

Puno has served as chairman of the Court's second division and the Senate Electoral Tribunal; is the ex-officio chairman of the Judicial and Bar Council; and led the Court Systems Journal and several other committees.

Originally a private attorney, Puno joined the Office of the Solicitor General in 1971. At the age of 40, in 1980, he became the youngest person ever to be named as associate justice of the Court of Appeals. He was appointed as justice of that court six years later. In 1993, he was appointed to the Supreme Court by then President Fidel Ramos.

A graduate of the University of the Philippines, Puno holds a master of comparative laws degree from United Methodist-related Southern Methodist University in Dallas, where he was valedictorian of his class and master of laws degree at the University of California, Berkeley.

Last year, he received the Distinguished Global Alumnus Award from the Dedman School of Law at Southern Methodist University. On its 100th anniversary, the United Methodist Church in the Philippines named him a "centennial awardee" in the field of law.

Puno was married to the late Luzviminda D. Puno, who was the Supreme Court Clerk of Court. They have three children, Reynato, Jr., Emmanuel and Ruth.

News media contact: Linda Bloom, New York, (646) 369-3759 or

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