4 vying for SC chief post after Bersamin retirement
MANILA, Philippines — Four justices on the Supreme Court have accepted their nominations to head the judiciary after the retirement of Chief Justice Lucas Bersamin on Oct. 18.
Three other magistrates on the court declined their automatic nominations.
Associate Justices Diosdado Peralta and Estela Perlas-Bernabe, both senior magistrates on the 15-member Supreme Court, accepted their automatic nominations to succeed Bersamin, while Associate Justice Andres Reyes Jr., who has been serving on the tribunal for two years, accepted his outside nomination.
Associate Justice Jose Reyes Jr., who has been serving on the court for barely a year, also accepted his nomination.
Peralta, 67, is the second most senior magistrate, having been appointed to the highest tribunal by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo on Jan. 13, 2009.
Bernabe, 67, is the third most senior justice, having been appointed on Sept. 16, 2011, by President Benigno Aquino III.
If appointed Chief Justice, Peralta will serve for three years, or up to March 27, 2022, when he reaches the mandatory retirement age of 70.
If Bernabe clinches the appointment, she will serve for three years, or until May 14, 2022, when she turns 70.
Reyes, 69, is the seventh most senior justice. He was appointed by President Rodrigo Duterte on July 13, 2017.
If appointed, he will serve as Chief Justice for less than a year or until his retirement on May 11, 2020.
Jose Reyes Jr., 68, was appointed by President Duterte on Aug. 9, 2018.
If appointed Chief Justice, he will also have less than a year to serve since he will retire on Sept. 18, 2020.
Peralta and Bernabe informed the screening body, the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC), on Tuesday that they would accept their automatic nominations, according to Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra.
Guevarra, a JBC member, said Reyes accepted his nomination by retired Supreme Court Associate Justices Jose Perez and Sesinando Villon.
Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio and Associate Justices Marvic Leonen and Benjamin Caguioa declined their automatic nominations.
Carpio, 69, who has been serving on the Supreme Court for nearly 18 years since he was appointed by Arroyo on Oct. 26, 2001, said in a statement that he declined his nomination because it would be only eight days from the occurrence of a vacancy in the office of the Chief Justice to his retirement on Oct. 26.
Leonen, 56 and Caguioa, 59, the fourth and sixth most senior magistrates and both Aquino appointees, did not give a reason for declining their nominations.
“For now, in my considered judgment, my decision is the right thing to do for myself, this court and this country. I will be able to do what I do best for our people in my current position at this time,” Leonen said in a statement.
Caguioa did not issue a statement.
Associate Justice Francis Jardeleza, the fourth most senior justice on the court, having been appointed by Aquino in 2014, was no longer considered for automatic nomination since he will retire on Sept. 26, ahead of Bersamin.
By tradition, the five most senior magistrates are automatically nominated as Chief Justice, but they have to formally accept their nominations to be considered candidates by the JBC.
The qualified magistrates were given only until Tuesday to accept their nominations.
This will be the third time that Mr. Duterte will appoint a Chief Justice.
He appointed Bersamin, an Arroyo appointee to the tribunal, as Chief Justice on Nov. 28 last year.
In August last year, he appointed Teresita Leonardo-De Castro as Chief Justice. She held the post for six months, after succeeding Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, whose appointment was nullified by the Supreme Court.
Mr. Duterte has 90 days from the vacancy of the position to appoint a new Chief Justice, chosen from nominees shortlisted by the JBC.
Malacañang on Tuesday declined to even hint at who the President would choose.
“No one knows what is on his mind, especially on appointments,” presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo said. —WITH A REPORT FROM JULIE M. AURELIO
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