Justice Peralta tries one more time to be chief justice

MANILA, Philippines (3rd UPDATE) – Supreme Court Associate Justice Diosdado Peralta has accepted his nomination to be the Philippines' next chief justice, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said on Tuesday, August 20.

Guevarra, a Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) member, added that Associate Justice Andres Reyes Jr has also applied for the post again. Reyes accepted his nomination from retired SC justice Jose Perez and retired CA justice Sesinando Villon.

Before the 4:30 pm deadline on Tuesday, Associate Justice Jose Reyes Jr, currently no. 10 on the bench, also applied. Guevarra said he applied on his own.

Associate Justice Estela Perlas Bernabe also confirmed her nomination on Tuesday, meaning that so far, it's Peralta, Bernabe, Andres Reyes Jr, and Jose Reyes Jr in the race for top magistrate.

Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, and Associate Justices Marvic Leonen and Benjamin Caguioa earlier declined their respective nominations.

Carpio, Peralta, Bernabe, Leonen, and Caguioa were automatically nominated by tradition as the 5 most senior justices. 

The JBC's deadline for applications for the replacement of Chief Justice Lucas Bersamin is 4:30 pm of Tuesday, August 20, 

Bersamin is retiring on October 18.

Peralta's 3rd time

Of the 4 confirmed applicants, Peralta is the most senior, followed by Bernabe, Andres Reyes Jr, and Jose Reyes Jr.

This is the third time that Peralta is applying to be chief justice, and the second time for Bernabe.

Peralta was bypassed for the post when President Rodrigo Duterte picked retired chief justice Teresita Leonardo De Castro, and then retiring chief justice Lucas Bersamin. Peralta was more senior than Bersamin.

Peralta was reported to be a front runner in the race for chief justice then, with his ace being no less than then-speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, a staunch ally of President Rodrigo Duterte.

Arroyo appointed Peralta to the SC in 2009, the last full year of her presidency. Their fathers were friends; Peralta was even named after Arroyo’s father, former president Diosdado Macapagal.

Peralta's voting record

Peralta penned the controversial ponencia that allowed a hero’s burial for dictator Ferdinand Marcos, triggering nationwide protests.

The hero’s burial was heavily opposed because of human rights violations during Marcos’ martial law rule – violations acknowledged by the government under Republic Act No. 10368 or the Human Rights Victims Reparation and Recognition Act of 2013.

“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 had said during his first JBC interview for chief justice in August 2018, when asked about the controversial issue.

So far, Peralta has never voted against the President in cases that directly impacted his administration – like the martial law in Mindanao cases – and even those that were of interest to him, like the quo warranto ouster of Maria Lourdes Sereno.

Key SC decisions from 2006 indicate that Peralta, as well as Andres Reyes Jr, lean towards the executive or politicians.

In cases involving powerful interests, Peralta concurred in the flip-flopping decision of the Court to favor Philippine Airlines (PAL) in a labor case filed by retrenched employees.

In that decision, Peralta, along with Bersamin, also flip-flopped in their individual votes to hand PAL a win.

Peralta also concurred in denying the petitions that sought to demand payment from the United States for the damages inflicted by the USS Guardian on Tubbataha Reef.

Peralta inhibited in the highly political cases of Danding Cojuangco's shares from coco levy, and the grant of bail to Globe Asiatique owner Delfin Lee. 

Peralta, who started as a prosecutor of his hometown in Laoag City, Ilocos Norte, 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 before his appointment to the High Court in 2009. – Rappler.com

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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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