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Bersamin, not most senior in SC, named 25th Chief Justice

Oathtaking of Chief Justice Lucas P. Bersamin

Newly appointed Chief Justice Lucas P. Bersamin (second from left) takes his oath before Senior Associate Justice Antonio T. Carpio at 2:17 p.m. on November 28, 2018 at the Session Hall of the Supreme Court in Padre Faura Street, Manila. Looking on are Mrs. Aurora Bagares-Bersamin (third from left) and his immediate predecessor, Chief Justice Teresita J. Leonardo-de Castro. PHOTO FROM SC PIO

On the Supreme Court, seniority is based on when magistrates took their seats, not on when they joined the judiciary.

President Rodrigo Duterte had said he would choose the most senior magistrate on the Supreme Court when he appointed a new Chief Justice to replace Teresita Leonardo-De Castro, who retired on Oct. 8.

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But on Monday, he did not choose acting Chief Justice Antonio Carpio, who had been serving on the highest court since Oct. 26, 2001.

He appointed Associate Justice Lucas Bersamin as the country’s 25th Chief Justice.

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Bersamin was appointed to the Supreme Court on April 3, 2009, by then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

Longer service record

Malacañang announced Bersamin’s appointment on Wednesday together with the appointment of Court of Appeals Associate Justice Rosmari Carandang as Supreme Court associate justice.

According to presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo, Bersamin is “the most senior justice in the Supreme Court in terms of services rendered under the judicial branch in various capacities.”

“He served nearly 17 years as the presiding judge of the Quezon City Regional Trial Court, over six years as associate justice at the Court of Appeals, and close to 10 years as the 163rd magistrate of the Supreme Court,” Panelo said.

Bersamin and Carandang, he said, were among “the best and the brightest” in the judiciary, as the new Chief Justice placed ninth in the 1973 bar exams and the newest associate justice also ninth in her own exam in 1975.

Panelo said the President signed the appointments of Bersamin and Carandang on Monday.

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Leaving a legacy

Bersamin told reporters on Wednesday that he was humbled by his appointment and that leaving a legacy was foremost in his mind.

He said he recognized that he would serve as Chief Justice for only 11 months, and appealed to the public to be “understanding” of the “shortcomings” that he might make in office.

“If I raise the bar of expectations too high, I will really fall short of it given [that I’ll be serving] only 11 months,” he said.

Besides Carpio, the Judicial and Bar Council also nominated Supreme Court Associate Justices Diosdado Peralta, Estela Perlas-Bernabe and Andres Reyes Jr. as Chief Justice.

Bersamin said he had thought he had the least chance of being chosen because he did not know or had spoken with the President or any member of the President’s family.

He disclosed that he did not vote for the President in the 2016 presidential election.

Bersamin took his oath of office before Carpio on Wednesday.

Sen. Grace Poe lauded the President’s choice, describing Bersamin as a “brilliant legal mind with a dynamic style, an incisive wit and enlightening opinion.”

“He will no doubt profoundly help shape the Supreme Court as a beacon of justice and lead the judiciary in undertaking much-needed reforms to make the system truly beneficial to the Filipino people,” Poe said in a statement.

Speaking to reporters, Poe shrugged off questions about President’s decision not to choose Carpio, the most senior magistrate on the Supreme Court.

“Of course, it’s the prerogative of the President,” Poe said.

“There are many capable people in the Supreme Court but I am happy because in my view, Justice Bersamin will be effective because, first of all, he is good. Also, he is in good terms with his peers, and I think he has been fair in deciding the many cases that passed him,” she said.

Unlike in the United States, the Philippine Senate does not approve nominations to the Supreme Court. —With reports from Jerome Aning and DJ Yap

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TAGS: chief justice, Lucas Bersamin, Rodrigo Duterte, Supreme Court
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