MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – President Rodrigo Duterte appointed Diosdado Peralta as the new chief justice, Malacañang announced on Wednesday, October 23.
Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea confirmed Peralta's appointment in a text message on Wednesday. The appointment paper was signed that day.
Peralta will serve as chief justice until his retirement on March 27, 2022. This means that Duterte would have the power to appoint his replacement, who will serve beyond his term, because there is no midnight appointments ban in the High Court.
"We are certain that with Chief Justice Peralta at the helm of the Supreme Court, the judiciary will continue to be well-managed as it thrives to uphold the principles of judicial excellence, integrity, and independence," said Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo.
Peralta clinched the coveted appointment after 3 tries. He is also the most senior justice on the bench after Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, who will retire on October 26.
Peralta edged out Associate Justices Estela Perlas Bernabe and Andres Reyes Jr for the chief justice post.
A native of Laoag, Ilocos Norte, Peralta started his career as a prosecutor in 1987, became trial court judge in 1994, and justice of the anti-graft court Sandiganbayan in 2002. He was Sandiganbayan Presiding Justice in 2009 when then-president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo tapped him for the High Court.
During his stint at the Sandiganbayan, Peralta penned the ruling that allowed Marcos crony Danding Cojuangco Jr to retain his 20% share in San Miguel Corporation (SMC), instead of awarding it to the farmers. Retired chief justice Lucas Bersamin later upheld Peralta's ruling in the High Court. Peralta inhibited in the High Court for being the Sandiganbayan ponente.
In the SC, Peralta's most controversial ponencia to date is the hero's burial of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos.
“I hope that issue has been buried, because if you don’t bury that issue, we cannot move on. And I believe, whatever happened in the past, we should move on. We will not improve as a nation if you [do not move on]," Peralta said in a Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) interview for chief justice in August 2018.
Peralta has been advocating for reforms in how courts decide drug cases, lamenting that there were not enough judges to keep up with the increasing volume of drug cases filed.
Peralta wrote the decision that allowed plea bargaining in small time drug cases, and the equally controversial People vs Romy Lim decision that set a precedent in dismissing weak drug cases.
The SC, however, has made a slight backpedal on the Romy Lim decision after the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA) complained of an "alarming" number of acquittal of drug suspects, which is seen as adverse to the Duterte government's campaign against drugs.
Peralta has never voted against President Duterte in cases that directly impacted his administration – like martial law in Mindanao cases – and even those that were of interest to him, like the quo warranto ouster of Maria Lourdes Sereno.
Malacañang also cited a decision of Peralta's in the case of People vs Fallorina that imposed the death penalty on a policeman who uses his firearm to shoot an 11-year-old boy.
His was the first conviction for plunder involving a cashier of the Bureau of Internal Revenue in People vs Manalili and the first and only conviction of Qualified Bribery under Article 211-A of the Revised Penal Code involving police officers and suspected foreign drug-traffickers, said the Palace.
Peralta obtained his economics undergraduate degree from Letran, and his law degree from the University of Santo Tomas (UST). – Rappler.com
Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at email@example.com.