Sabino Bibby Padilla

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Sabino Bibby Padilla

Birthplace: Manila, Metro Manila, Philippines
Death: Died
Immediate Family:

Son of Nicanor Escobar Padilla and <private> Bibby
Husband of <private> de los Reyes
Father of Esperanza de los Reyes Padilla; <private> Padilla; <private> Padilla; <private> Padilla; <private> Padilla and 2 others
Brother of <private> Padilla; Alberto Bibby Padilla; <private> Padilla; <private> Padilla; <private> Padilla and 3 others
Half brother of <private> Padilla

Occupation: Justice of the Supreme Court of the Philippines
Managed by: Lucas Antonio Madamba Padilla
Last Updated:
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Immediate Family

About Sabino Bibby Padilla

Legal Luminary and Defender of the Judiciary

An associate justice of the Supreme Court and justice secretary under the Quirino administration, Sabino Padilla y Bibby was born in the district of San Miguel, Manila on August 21, 1894. He was the fourth son of the eleven children of Nicanor Padilla y Escobar, a physician, and Ysabel Bibby y Peña, a former teacher.

Sabino’s father Dr. Padilla was one of the first eight graduates of the college of medicine of the University of Santo Tomas. He served as a colonel and chief of the medical corps of the revolutionary army under General Antonio Luna. After the Filipino-American War, he returned to Pangasinan, his home province, where he practiced his profession. Following the establishment of civil government under the Americans, he was elected representative of the first district of Pangasinan in the First Philippine Assembly, which was convened in 1907. Sabino Padilla had his elementary education at the Sampaloc elementary school and his secondary education in San Beda College. He obtained his Bachelor of Arts degree from Ateneo de Manila, graduating sobresaliente (summa cum laude) in 1911. He then took up law at the University of the Philippines, where he earned his bachelor of law degree in 1915. He was admitted to the bar the same year. At the State University, he gained mastery of the law in the English language. In 1916, Padilla pursued postgraduate studies in the United States. He obtained his master of laws degree from Columbia University in New York, the following year. In 1919 the US Supreme Court admitted him to its bar. It was not until 1937, however, that Padilla earned his doctor of laws degree, Doctori in Jure Civili, meritissimus (nomine discrepante), from the University of Santo Tomas.

Padilla started his career in the government service as a special attorney at the then Bureau of Justice in 1919, with the help of Don Quintin Paredes. A few months after his appointment, he was promoted to assistant attorney general, a post he retained for the next 10 years. As part of his job, he investigated complaints involving government personnel, some of whom were influential politicians and ranking personnel, some of whom were influential politicians and ranking officials, and in the process drawing their ire but winning the admiration of the public for his unbending stance on the rule of law and public order.

In 1929, he was appointed auxiliary judge of the Court of First Instance of Jolo, Sulu. He was also made a traveling judge, with assignments in Zamboanga, Dipolog, Vigan, Ilocos Sur, Zambales, Cavite, and Nueva Ecija, to try cases cognizable by his court. In 1933, he became the district judge of the Court of First Instance of Nueva Ecija. In 1936, after completing his duties with the committee, he was named judge of the third branch of the Court of First Instance of Manila. Several months later, he was elevated to the Court of Appeals as an Associate Justice. During the Japanese occupation, Padilla served as undersecretary of the department of justice. On June 25, 1946, President Manuel A. Roxas appointed him associate justice of the Supreme Court. His service at the high tribunal was briefly interrupted when he was appointed by President Elpidio S. Quirino as Secretary of Justice on September 19, 1948. Secretary Padilla was reappointed to the Supreme Court on June 30, 1949, and served there until August 21, 1964, when he retired at the age of 70.

During his tenure as justice secretary, Padilla also headed, as board chairman, the Philippine National Bank, Board of Pardons and Parole, Rural Progress Administration, Binalbagan-Isabela Sugar Co., Inc., and the Binalbagan Sugar Estate. As chairman of these boards, exercising exceptional frugality, however, he rejected excessive allowances for himself, discretionary funds, a personal car, and even meals served during meetings, saying that he was already receiving his per diem allowances. He refused, likewise, to have bodyguards at his disposal saying that they were needed more in apprehending criminals and that he himself did not need one to be safe.

Justice Padilla was responsible for writing landmark decisions, which are now part of Philippine jurisprudence. One of them was on the labor case, Pan Am vs. Pan American Employees Association and the Court of Industrial Relations, where he held that the peaceful picketing of an office by employees was part of the freedom of speech guaranteed by the Constitution, not a threat to peace and property. In a dissenting opinion of the Benedictine Order vs. Philippine Trust case, he warned against the dangerous precedent of honoring Japanese war notes, saying that for paper money to have any value, it must have sufficient backing in the form of gold or silver, which was lacking in the currency issued by the Japanese occupation forces. Justice Padilla also wrote extensively in law publications, which are now much sought after by members of both the bench and the bar.

While he was Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, Padilla also served as chairman of the House Electoral Tribunal, from 1949 to 1960, until his retirement in 1964. Padilla already had a reputation as a staunch defender of the integrity and independence of the judiciary even when he was not yet with the Supreme Court. Before the war, Quezon once criticized him for his decision on the Cuevo and Barredo Case, saying that it was not in consonance with his social justice theory. Seeing the President’s action as an encroachment on the judicial conscience, Padilla, in a commendable display of courage and conviction, resigned in protest. As Judge he showed the same mettle when, at the Supreme Court years later, he voted to nullify the suspension of Manila Mayor Arsenio Lacson by President Quirino, his law classmate at UP and benefactor, as a consequence of the libel suit filed against Lacson by a Manila judge. He said that the suit had nothing to do with the performance of Lacson’s duties as mayor.

As chairman of the Committee of Bar Examiners in 1948, 1949, 1952, and 1963, Justice Padilla saw to it that only those of proven competence were appointed as examiners. He exercised extreme but reasonable secrecy to ensure the integrity of the bar examinations. He resisted all pressures to lower the passing grade or any attempt to have the ratings of certain candidates raised.

Justice Padilla suggested ways to improve the administration of justice in the country, such as the abolition of the justices of the peace owing to the incompetence of the men and women who occupied these positions and the influence exerted over them by politicians. He recommended, instead, the expansion of the Courts of First Instance to help ensure that the people would have judges with more integrity and better qualifications.

Justice Padilla was a quiet and unassuming person. In the Supreme Court, he never resorted to polemics to prove his point but simply let the cold logic of his arguments do the job for him. He once refused to have his picture taken for the front cover of a leading magazine because he felt it was too much of an honor for him. Disdainful of the state of politics in the country, he first objected to the entry into it of his brothers, Ambrosio and Benedicto. But they argued that they wanted to serve the people in another field. Ambrosio was later elected senator and, Benedicto, a congressman of the then province of Rizal. Together, the three brothers would subsequently be known as the “Fighting Padillas” because of their crusade against corruption and concern for the common tao.

Although wealthy, Justice Padilla was modest and frugal in his ways, but had an open hand for charity. He also loved to travel, but at his own expense. He was considered one of the most traveled officials in the country. Methodical and systematic, he scheduled his official activities to the minute, beginning his day with prayer and calisthenics.

After his retirement from the Supreme Court, Justice Padilla was appointed president of the Asociación de los Veteranos de la Revolución by Emilio Aguinaldo just before his death. As head of the association, he also served as a member of the Supreme Council of the Veterans Federation of the Philippines.

In 1968, he was elected member of the Real Academia Española. At his induction, he read his dissertation, entitled, “Mis Pasos Por La Senda Del Castellano.”

In recognition of his exemplary public life, Justice Padilla received various awards. In 1961, the Ateneo de Manila honored him on the 50th anniversary of his graduation from it. The University of the Philippines did the same when it marked the golden anniversary of its College of Law in 1960. He received similar honors from the Columbia University Alumni Association of the Philippines in 1963. Six years later, he received the degree of Doctor of Laws, honoris causa from the University of Manila conferred upon him. The highest award he received was the Legion of Honor, rank of Commander, which President Diosdado P. Macapagal bestowed on him on the eve of his retirement from the Supreme Court in 1964.

Justice Padilla was married in 1922 to Dna. Dominga de los Reyes y Sandoval, by whom he had three sons and four daughters: Teodoro, who became associate justice of the Supreme Court; Tomas, once undersecretary of foreign affairs, and Sabino Jr., a leading practitioner of the law; Esperanza Padilla-Fule, Patrocinio Padilla-Villanueva, Maria Padilla-Lizares, and Rose Padilla-Gallego.

He died on June 15, 1986.

On August 20, 1994,on the occasion of his 100th birth anniversary, the National Historical Institute honored him by installing a marker at his birthplace in San Miguel, Manila.

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Sabino Bibby Padilla's Timeline

August 21, 1894
Manila, Metro Manila, Philippines
September 7, 1933
Age 39
June 15, 1986
Age 91