Spokesman Ted Te resigns from Supreme Court

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Theodore Te resigned as the chief public information officer and assistant court administrator of the Supreme Court (SC).

In a letter dated August 29, Te tendered his irrevocable resignation to newly-appointed Chief Justice Teresita Leonardo De Castro. De Castro has accepted.

Te's last day is on September 7. Deputy Information Chief Maria Victoria Gleoresty Guerra will be the acting chief.

Te has served as the SC's spokesman since 2013, when ousted chief justice Maria Lourdes Sereno appointed him to the High Court.

"I am returning to full-time academic life, which I had put on hold starting 2013 to be able to serve the judiciary and the Supreme Court. I respectfully believe that I would be of greater value to the judiciary and the Court in the academic world at this time," Te said in his resignation letter.

Te's term was coterminous with Sereno's, but he was extended pending the appointment of a new one.

Te told De Castro: "I believe that Your Honor should be given a free hand to craft your own media policies and to appoint a person whom your Honor believes could best implement those policies.

"It has been a pleasure to have served on 3 committees which Your Honor has led during my tenure as chief of the Public Information Office. May I respectfully offer my every good wish for your and the Court's success," he added.

Dignified silence

Te was vocal about his legal opinions as an academic, until he was appointed to the Court.

In the SC, Te stood by the policy of dignified silence, where justices are only heard through the decisions and opinions they write. In announcing the Court's decisions, Te would answer only questions that clarify decisions.

"The dignified silence refers to the silence of the Court on everything that does not appear on the face of the decision, and not on other matters that the public has a right to know, as defined under the Constitution and relevant laws as well as guidelines issued by the Court, or that the Court may choose to disclose," Te wrote in his last opinion piece in 2012, before he assumed his role as SC spokesman.

In a rare occasion in May 2018, when Sereno was ousted, Te tweeted "I dissent!" He joined the opinion of many prominent legal groups that quo warranto is an unconstitutional way to oust a chief justice.

Te is a law professor, who also once served as University of the Philippines vice president for legal affairs. He is also a member of human rights lawyers' group FLAG or the Free Legal Assistance Group.

He presented in the first Supreme Court oral arguments in 1996, one of the youngest lawyers to do so at 30 years old, where FLAG argued that the death penalty was unconstitutional. He was then representing parricide convict Pedro Malabago. In that case, FLAG and Te were able to get Malabago out of the death row even though the conviction was affirmed.

After the Malabago case, Te also represented rape convict Leo Echegaray in a failed bid to strike down the death penalty. It was only in 2006 when former president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo repealed the death penalty on the eve of her trip to the Vatican. – 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.