By Jeffrey Damicog
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra has assured that newly appointed Chief Justice Teresita Leonardo de Castro was not picked as a reward in helping oust former chief justice Maria Lourdes Sereno.
“She (de Castro) was appointed purely on the merits, aside from seniority considerations,” Guevarra, who is also ex officio vice chairman of the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) said today (August 27).
The Secretary reacted to the allegations of several opposition lawmakers who claimed that de Castro’s appointment was intended as an incentive for helping remove Sereno as chief justice.
The JBC has been tasked under the Constitution to screen applicants for the judiciary.
President Rodrigo Duterte picked de Castro after the JBC submitted to him on Friday the shortlist of candidates for the chief justice post.
Aside from de Castro who got six votes from the JBC, those in the shortlist are Senior Associate Justices Diosdado Peralta who received six and Lucas Bersamin with five votes.
Meanwhile, de Castro is set to assume her new post as chief justice on August 28 and will have just over a month before she mandatorily retires on October 8.
De Castro was appointed SC Justice by then President and current House Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo on Dec. 7, 2007.
The magistrate sought to become successor of late Chief Justice Renato Corona in 2012 but got beaten by Sereno who was picked by then President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III.
Prior becoming SC justice, de Castro was Sandiganbayan Associate Justice from 1997 and became Sandiganbayan Presiding Justice in 2004.
De Castro headed the anti-graft court’s special division on the perjury and plunder trial of former President Joseph Estrada and his son, former Sen. Jinggoy Estrada. The former chief executive was found guilty of plunder, while, all of his confidants including his son got acquitted.
During her stint at the Sandiganbayan, she was awarded Chief Justice Hilario G. Davide Judicial Reform Award.
De Castro, who is currently the president of the Philippine Women Judges Association (PWJA), was one of the top four law graduates if the University of the Philippines (UP) College of Law in 1972.
Her career in public service began on February 19, 1973 when she joined the SC as law clerk in the SC’s Office of the Clerk of Court.
During her time at the SC in the 1970s, she also became a legal/judicial assistant and a member of the technical staff of the late Chief Justice Fred Ruiz Castro.
In December 1978, she transferred to the Department of Justice (DOJ) where she served as State Counsel I and rose from the ranks culminating in her appointment in 1997 as assistant chief state counsel.
She was designated as one of the international and peace negotiators of former Presidents Corazon Aquino and Fidel Ramos from 1988 to 1997.
In 1998, she was awarded by then President Ramos with the Presidential Medal of Merit for Exceptionally Meritorious and Valuable Service Rendered and Remarkable Accomplishments that have served the interest of peace, unity and progress in Southern Philippines, earning her the gratitude and admiration of the Filipino nation and the people.