JBC shortlists De Castro, Peralta, Bersamin for chief justice

MANILA, Philippines – The Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) has shortlisted the 3 most senior applicants for the post of chief justice.

The JBC met morning of Friday, August 24, and decided to shortlist and send to President Rodrigo Duterte the names of Associate Justices Teresita Leonardo de Castro, Diosdado Peralta, and Lucas Bersamin.

De Castro got 6 votes, Peralta also 6, while Bersamin got 5. 

The JBC makes it official. pic.twitter.com/U30d8ycS9x — Lian Buan (@lianbuan) August 24, 2018

This short list comes after a week's worth of reset by the JBC to have more time to scrutinize the submitted documents of applicants, including their Statements of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth (SALNs).

Opposition lawmakers filed impeachment complaints on August 23 against the 3 justices, as well as 4 other justices who voted in favor of the quo warranto ouster of Maria Lourdes Sereno.

Duterte needs to choose a chief justice on September 17. Article VIII, Section 4 of the Constitution requires that the vacancy must be filled within 90 days; the Supreme Court officially declared the post vacant on June 19 when it affirmed the quo warranto ouster of Maria Lourdes Sereno.

De Castro, Peralta, and Bersamin have consistently voted in favor of the Duterte administration. A review of key Supreme Court decisions from 2007 also shows they tend to vote in favor of the executive branch or politicians.

During the JBC interviews, De Castro said that despite her retirement in October this year which would give her two months the most to serve, she would still be able to accomplish a lot.

"It is not as if I’m going to start today, I’ve been doing this for a long time,” said De Castro, who said she would try to bring to completion digitization reforms that she said she started way back. 

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Peralta

Peralta, on the other hand, defended to the JBC his ponencia that granted a hero’s burial to the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos, which triggered nationwide protests.

“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],” he said.

Peralta headed the committee that drafted the rules on continuous trial, which would hasten criminal trials and avoid delays.

Peralta said he would address the gaps in terms of drugs cases, saying it is “humanly impossible” for judges handling drug cases to finish trial within the required 180 days. Due to the volume of cases, logistics just would not allow strict compliance with the rules, Peralta said.

Peralta also said he would train judges to better respond to pleadings that just seek to delay the proceedings.

Peralta was also asked about increases in his assets, with the years 2016 to 2017 registering a P5-million jump. (READ: Why don't we know enough about Supreme Court justices’ wealth?)

Bersamin

Bersamin was quizzed on his wealth, with JBC member Milagros Fernandez Cayosa saying there have been “remarkable increases” in his net worth.

Bersamin cited his allowances from electoral tribunals, the bank deposits of his wife who is a businesswoman, and a condominium unit which was declared in one go only after they had completed payments.

Bersamin said he would institute reforms in the JBC to better vet applicants for the judiciary, as well as introduce changes that would smoke out corruption within.

These include letting the Court of Appeals handle disciplinary cases against judges. (READ: By 2022, Supreme Court filled with Duterte appointees)

Under a Bersamin leadership, the SC might become stricter on the kinds of cases they accept. Bersamin said the SC has been lax even to the point of accepting petitions with procedural flaws just because of their “transcendental importance.”

De Castro retires this October; Peralta in March 2022; and Bersamin in October 2019. – Rappler.com

Lian Buan

Lian Buan covers justice and corruption for Rappler. She is interested in decisions, pleadings, audits, contracts, and other documents that establish a trail. If you have leads, email lian.buan@rappler.com or tweet @lianbuan.

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