4 SC justices aspire to be Chief Justice

Published August 20, 2019, 10:19 AM

by AJ Siytangco

By Rey Panaligan

There are four Supreme Court (SC) associate justices who are aspiring to be Chief Justice, the post that will be vacated on October 18 with the compulsory retirement of Chief Justice Lucas P. Bersamin.

The aspirants (based on seniority in the 15-member SC) are Associate Justices Diosdado M. Peralta, Estela M. Perlas Bernabe, Andres B. Reyes Jr., and Jose C. Reyes Jr.

Associate Justices Diosdado M. Peralta, Estela M. Perlas Bernabe, Andres B. Reyes Jr., and Jose C. Reyes Jr. (Supreme Court / MANILA BULLETIN)
Associate Justices Diosdado M. Peralta, Estela M. Perlas Bernabe, Andres B. Reyes Jr., and Jose C. Reyes Jr.
(Supreme Court / MANILA BULLETIN)

The Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) — the constitutional office that accepts, screens, and nominates appointments to the judiciary – has yet to meet to decide on its official nominees whose names will be submitted to the President.

JBC rules provide that the council has to name at least three nominees to each vacant post in the judiciary.

Under the Constitution, the President has 90 days from October 18 within which to appoint the replacement of Bersamin.

Starting October 18, Senior Associate Justice Antonio T. Carpio, who had earlier declined his automatic nomination to the Chief Justice post, will automatically become the acting Chief Justice until his compulsory retirement on October 26.

From October 26 and if the President has not yet appointed Bersamin’s replacement, Associate Justice Peralta, now the third magistrate in the hierarchy, will assume the post of acting Chief Justice.

The deadline for application and nomination and acceptance of nomination to the Chief Justice post ended Tuesday (August 20) afternoon.

The five most senior associate justice were automatically nominated to the Chief Justice post by the SC as a full court. They are Carpio, Peralta, Bernabe, Marvic Mario Victor F. Leonen, and Alfredo Benjamin S. Caguioa.

In the case of Associate Justice Andres B. Reyes Jr., he was nominated by retired SC Associate Justice Jose P. Perez and former Court of Appeals Associate Justice Sesinando Villon.

It was not known immediately who nominated Associate Justice Jose C Reyes Jr.

While Associate Justice Francis H. Jardeleza is more senior than Caguioa in the current lineup, the former was not automatically nominated because he is compulsory retiring next month on September 26.

Associate Justices Leonen and Caguioa, like Carpio, were reported to have declined their automatic nominations.

In declining his nomination, Carpio said: “I am declining because there are only eight days left from the vacancy to my compulsory retirement.” He retires on October 26.

For his part, Leonen said: “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.”

It was not known immediately, why Caguioa declined his nomination.

Peralta was appointed to the SC in 2009, Bernabe in 2011, Andres Reyes Jr. in 2017, and Jose Reyes Jr. in 2018.

Peralta and Bernabe will compulsory retire on March 27, 2022 and on May 14, 2022, respectively. Andres Reyes Jr. will compulsory retire on May 11, 2020, while Jose C. Reyes Jr. will retire on Sept. 18, 2020.

Including the two Reyeses, there are now eight incumbent justices — in the 15-member SC — who were appointed by the President. The others are Alexander G. Gesmundo, Ramon Paul L. Hernando, Rosmari D. Carandang, Amy C. Lazaro Javier, Henri Jean Paul B. Inting, and Rodil V. Zalameda.

The President had also appointed retired Associate Justices Samuel R. Martirez, now the country’s Ombudsman, and Noel G. Tijam.

Two Chief Justices have also been appointed by the President. Aside from Bersamin, also appointed by the President was retired Chief Justice Teresita J. Leonardo de Castro.

Peralta was born in Laoag City in Ilocos Norte. He started his career in government service in 1987 as an assistant prosecutor in Laoag City. In 1988 he was transferred to the prosecutor’s office in Manila.

In 1994, he was appointed judge of the regional trial court (RTC) in Quezon City. He was promoted to the Sandiganbayan in 2002 and later became the anti-graft court’s presiding justice in 2008 before his elevation to the SC.

A native of Plaridel, Bulacan, Bernabe started working as technical assistant in the office of then SC Associate Justice Lorenzo Relova in 1976 after passing the bar examinations.

She was in private law practice from 1978 to 1996 when she was appointed metropolitan trial court judge in Makati City. She was promoted RTC judge in 2000 and was elevated to the CA in 2004.

Associate Justice Andres B. Reyes Jr. was a trial court judge from 1987 until 1999 when he was promoted to the CA. In 2010, he was appointed CA presiding justice until his promotion to the SC.

On the other hand, Associate Justice Jose C. Reyes Jr. was a technical assistant to the former Chief Justice Felix V. Makasiar until 1978. He was a former judge of the metropolitan trial court in Pasig City and RTC judge until 2003.

He was appointed CA associate justice in 2003 and served the post for 15 years.