3 top bets for SC chief are Arroyo appointees

The top three preferred candidates by the Supreme Court to replace former chief justice Maria Lourdes Sereno are all appointees of then president, now Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, the high court records showed.

Lucas Bersamin

During Tuesday’s en banc session, the high court voted among the five aspirants nominated for the post with Associate Justice Lucas Bersamin as the top choice with a unanimous vote of 10.

He was followed by Associate Justices Diosdado Peralta and Teresita Leonardo De Castro with nine votes each.

Diosdado Peralta
Teresita Leonardo De Castro

Associate Justice Andres Reyes Jr., one of the most junior high court justices, got two votes. Another candidate is Tagum City Davao Del Norte Regional Trial Court Executive Judge Virginia Tehano-Ang. The high court vote was an indication that the justices were adhering to the long-standing judicial tradition of seniority and no outsider.

Bersamin, Peralta, and De Castro are among the five most senior justices of the Supreme Court. By tradition, the most senior justices are nominated for the top judiciary post. However, they need to submit a letter of acceptance to the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) so that they can be considered for the position.

Both acting Chief Justice Antonio Carpio, the most senior justice, and Associate Justice Presbitero Velasco declined the nomination. Carpio, earlier said he does not want to benefit from the SC’s decision granting the quo warranto that ousted Sereno while Velasco will mandatory retire next month.

Of the three senior justices, De Castro was first appointed by Arroyo on Dec. 3, 2007 followed by Peralta on Jan. 14, 2009 and Bersamin on April 3, 2009. Prior to their appointment to the Supreme Court, both De Castro and Peralta were members of the Sandiganbayan division that convicted former president, now Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada, of plunder. Bersamin, on the other hand, was a Court of Appeals Associate Justice.

De Castro is set to retire from the SC on October 8, 2018, when she reaches the mandatory retirement age of 70. If appointed, she will be one of the chief justices with the shortest stay in office.

SC records showed that the Chief Justice with the shortest tenure was Pedro Yap with only 72 days or from April 19, 1988 to June 30, 1988.Bersamin will reach the mandatory retirement age of 70 in October 2019 while Peralta will retire in March 2022.