The Palace on Sunday dismissed as nonsense suggestions that Chief Justice Teresita Leonardo-de Castro was appointed as a reward for her role in ousting Maria Loudes Sereno, even as opposition lawmakers said they would push ahead with plans to have the new chief magistrate impeached.Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque said Sunday that De Castro’s appointment to the top judicial post was reasonable, saying she had “infinitely more experience” than her dismissed predecessor.He was reacting to comments from opposition Rep. Edcel Lagman of Albay and party-list Rep. Gary Alejano that De Castro’s appointment was a reward.“That is nonsense. President Rodrigo Duterte upheld judicial professionalism by appointing [the] most senior of aspirants,” said Roque in a text message Sunday.Lagman, who has filed an impeachment complaint against the new chief justice and six other associate justices of the Supreme, said De Castro was being rewarded “for her starring role” in Sereno’s ouster.Lagman said De Castro should have declined the nomination as she has an impending complaint for “culpable violation of the Constitution and betrayal of public trust.” Previously, Lagman, Alejano, Ifugao Rep. Teddy Baguilat, Jr., and Akbayan Partylist Rep. TomVillarin filed impeachment complaints against the De Castro and six other justices for ousting Sereno through a quo warranto petition in May.The six other justices were Diosdado Peralta, Lucas Bersamin, Francis Jardeleza, Noel Tijam, Andres Reyes Jr., and Alexander Gesmundo.Lagman said that De Castros brief term of 42 days before her mandatory retirement mitigated her appointment.“With the very short period of her incumbency, it is humanly impossible for her to accomplish wonders or anything of substance in the Supreme Court,” he said.Alejano, in a separate statement, said De Castro’s appointment was “clear payback” that signaled the “loss of a sense of propriety” in the government.De Castro will assume office on Tuesday, serving a tenure of 41 days as the country’s highest judicial officer.Her expected incumbency will be the shortest in history, surpassing the record of then Chief Justice Pedro Yap who served for nearly two months in 1988.In the House, Oriental Mindoro Rep. Paulino Salvador Leachon, chairman of the House committee on justice, said he wanted a speedy and independent impeachment case against the seven Supreme Court justices who voted to ouse Sereno in a quo warranto proceeding.Leachon said they aimed for a Sept. 4 hearing on the case.“We have rules to follow. This is part and parcel of democracy,” he said.He said the committee on justice would hear all the separate complaints jointly since these are interrelated,Lagman, one of the four petitioners against De Castro, rejected Roque’s belief that the complaints would be dismissed out of hand by the panel.“These will survive the test of the form and substance. And we believe that there is probable cause. Let us not think ahead of what the committee on justice would do,” he said on radio dzBB.“We believe our colleagues are reasonable men. They are subservient to what the executive department wants,” he said.Even if an impeachment case is a numbers game, the issues and grounds for an impeachment are important, according to the complainants, the complainants said.“Well, you know, the tyranny of numbers should not deter [us from] filing these impeachment complaints. If we would be afraid of the tyranny of numbers, who else would give our people the opportunity to demand accountability from errant justices,?” he said.Acting Chief Justice Antonio Carpio, who turned down his nomination, said De Castro would assume the top post on Tuesday. Carpio is expected to head the Supreme Court’s Second Division.As she assumes the top post on Tuesday, De Castro will preside over an en banc session as well as the oral arguments on two petitions assailing the constitutionality of President Duterte’s decision to withdraw the country’s membership from the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court.The new chief justice will lead the judiciary until Oct. 8 when she reaches the mandatory retirement age of 70 for members of the judiciary.Once De Castro retires on October 8, the five most senior justices would be Carpio, Peralta, Bersamin, Mariano C. del Castillo, and Estela M. Perlas Bernabe.
The Judicial and Bar Council will automatically consider these five as nominees for the chief justice post.Court sources said Carpio, who declined his nomination to the post because of his vote against the ouster of Sereno, is expected to join the race when De Castro retires.Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra, an ex-officio member of the seven-member JBC, assured the public that all the nominees underwent “very careful screening,” especially on their statements of assets, liabilities and net worth, which became the basis for Sereno’s ouster through a quo warranto proceeding.Various leaders in the legal community welcomed President Rodrigo Duterte’s appointment of De Castro.The heads of the Office of the Solicitor General and Office of the Ombudsman lauded the De Castro’s choice as the next top magistrate.“The OSG family and I rejoice in the well-deserved appointment of Justice Teresita L. de Castro as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. We are elated because her legal brilliance, competence, fairness and integrity ensure that justice will be well-served during her tenure,” Solicitor General Jose Calida said in his Twitter account.Ombudsman Samuel Martires said he was delighted that De Castro has been appointed as the next chief justice.“I am very, very happy that she was chosen by the President as the country’s first lady Chief Justice. She deserves it,” Martires said, a text message.“She is a good person; strict but compassionate, a stickler to the rules, a workaholic,” he added.De Castro was Martires’ presiding justice at the Sandiganbayan when they were still both associate justices of the anti-graft court.“She was my Presiding Justice at the Sandiganbayan and I’m pretty sure that the Sandiganbayan justices and employees are happy for her appointment as CJ,” said Martires, who was also a former Supreme Court associate justice before his appointment as Ombudsman following the retirement of Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales.The Integrated Bar of the Philippines, the mandatory national organization of lawyers in the country, also backed De Castro’s appointment as top magistrate.In a statement, the IBP President Abdiel Fajardo said that De Castro’s appointment is appropriate considering that she is the next most senior magistrate, after Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, who declined to be nominated for the post.“Justice de Castro is the next most senior in the court. While on the one hand, she faces ethical questions considering that is succeeding a CJ she helped remove, on the other hand that will weigh heavily in favor of seniority as a tradition,” Fajardo said.Earlier, Carpio and Guevarra backed De Castro’s appointment to the most coveted post in the judiciary.“Her appointment as chief justice is a fitting finale to her illustrious career in both the Department of Justice and the judiciary,” Guevarra said.De Castro will be the country’s 24th chief justice. Sereno, whose appointment was voided, is not on the roster.While most welcomed De Castro’s appointment, opposition lawmakers criticized it.Senator Risa Hontiveros described as short-sighted De Castro’s appointment, saying she fell “terribly short” on many fronts: integrity, vision and courage.She also accused President Duterte just took the shortest and surest path to keeping the Supreme Court under his control.Another opposition senator, Francis Pangilinan, said the appointment did not make sense.“Why appoint someone who will only sit as Chief Justice for less than two months? What public purpose does it serve? What public value does it create?” he said.Senator Aquilino Pimentel III, an ally of the President, said he believed De Castro was being rewarded for Sereno’s ouster. And said she should do her best to address the issues of the Supreme Court in her short term.Former Leyte representative Ferdinand Martin Romualdez of the Philippine Constitution Association lauded De Castro’s appointment.“She is very much qualified for the job and the President’s respect to the tradition of seniority will not only be good for the independence and stability of the judiciary but also to the country’s democracy,” he said.Deputy Speaker and Batangas Rep. Raneo Abu, Eastern Samar Rep. Ben Evardone, Quezon City Rep. Winston Castelo and Isabela Rep.Rodolfo Albano echoed Romualdez’s view.
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