By Rey Panaligan
Newly appointed Associate Justice Samuel H. Gaerlan is President Duterte’s 11th appointee among the incumbent Supreme Court (SC) justices.
This means that the President’s appointees constitute more than the majority of eight justices in the 15-member SC.
This is on top of the President’s appointment of Chief Justice Diosdado M. Peralta last October 23.
On the independence of the judiciary, Peralta had said in an earlier interview:
“Every Supreme Court magistrate and those in the lower courts vow to preserve the independence of the judiciary, adhere to the tenets of the Constitution, and uphold the Rule of Law. Once a magistrate takes his or her oath, his or her fealty is to the Constitution, not to the appointing authority.”
Gaerlan took over the associate justice post that was left vacant with Peralta’s promotion.
With his assumption, Gaerlan – whose prior post was associate justice of the Court of Appeals (CA) — will be assigned to the SC’s third division to complete the regular membership of five justices per division.
The 10 other appointees of the President in the SC are — in the order of seniority — Associate Justices Andres B. Reyes Jr., Alexander G. Gesmundo, Jose C. Reyes Jr., Ramon Paul L. Hernando, Rosmari D. Carandang, Amy C. Lazaro Javier, Henri Jean Paul B. Inting, Rodil V. Zalameda, Mario V. Lopez, and Edgardo L. Delos Angeles.
The other members of the SC are – in the order of seniority – Senior Associate Justice Estela M. Perlas Bernabe and Associate Justices Marvic Mario Victor F. Leonen and Alfredo Benjamin S. Caguioa.
Peralta is expected to head the judiciary until his mandatory retirement on March 27, 2022 at 70 years old. He replaced then Chief Justice Lucas P. Bersamin who mandatorily retired last October 18.
Bernabe mandatorily retires on May 14, 2022; Leonen, Dec. 29, 2032; Caguioa, Sept. 26, 2029; Andres Reyes, May 11, 2020; Gesmundo, Nov. 6, 2026; Jose Reyes, Sept. 18, 2020; Hernando, Aug. 27, 2036; Carandang, Jan. 9, 2022; Javier, Nov. 12, 2026; Inting, Sept. 4, 2027; Zalameda, Aug. 2, 2033; Lopez, May 29, 2027; Delos Santos, June 12, 2022; and Gaerlan, Dec. 19, 2028.
Hernando, so far, will serve the longest term followed by Zalameda and Leonen.
This year, the two Reyeses will mandatorily retire in May and September. Their replacements will also be appointed by the President from the list that would be submitted by the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) – the constitutional office that accepts, screens and nominates appointments to the judiciary.
It was not known immediately when Gaerlan will be officially designated member of the SC’s third division. Published report stated that he has taken his oath of office before the President on Wednesday, January 8.
Once Gaerlan’s division membership is designated by Chief Justice Peralta, the composition of the three divisions will be as follows:
First division – Peralta as chairperson, Caguioa as working chairperson, and Jose Reyes, Javier and Lopez as members.
Second division – Bernabe as chairperson with Andres Reyes, Hernando, Inting and Delos Santos as members.
Third division – Leonen as chairperson with Gesmundo, Carandang, Zalameda and Gaerlan as members.
The SC as a full court meets every Tuesday. Divisions sessions are held Mondays and Wednesdays.