Who will be next Chief Justice? President Duterte has to choose only from 3 senior SC justices

Published March 1, 2021, 1:43 PM

by Rey Panaligan 

One of the three Supreme Court (SC) senior associate justices — Estela M. Perlas Bernabe, Alexander G. Gesmundo and Ramon Paul L. Hernando — is expected to be appointed by President Duterte as replacement to Chief Justice Diosdado M. Peralta who will retire early on March 27.

Supreme Court (SC)

The three justices are the only aspirants to Peralta’s post when the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) officially terminated its search last Feb. 26.
Under JBC rules, there must be at least three nominees for every vacant post in the judiciary from whom the President will choose a replacement.
The JBC – the constitutional body that accepts, screens and nominates appointments to the judiciary – is expected to submit to the President its list of three nominees after the public interview of the aspirants starting on March 10.
Legal circles said they do not expect any of the three aspirants not to hurdle the public interview, nor do they see any reason for the President to return to the JBC the council’s nominations for further search. 
Once a new chief justice is appointed, the JBC will then open its search for the position of associate justice, a post which would be vacated by whoever will be appointed head of the judiciary.
Lawyer Brian Keith F. Hosaka, SC spokesman, has confirmed that only the three senior justices “completed the requirements for the application for the position of chief justice.”
Under the rules, the five most senior justices are automatically nominated to the post of chief justice.  However, they must accept their automatic nominations and submit the required documents.
With the announcement, the two other senior SC justices who did not accept their automatic nominations were Associate Justice Marvic Mario Victor F. Leonen and Alfredo Benjamin S. Caguioa.
Their reasons for not accepting the nominations were not immediately known.
 Bernabe will mandatorily retire on May 14, 2022;  Gesmundo on Nov. 6, 2026; and Hernando on Aug. 27, 2036.
Late last year, Peralta announced his early retirement or one year ahead of his compulsory retirement at age 70 on March 27, 2022. It was approved by the SC as a full court early this year.
Neither the SC nor Peralta has disclosed the reason for the early retirement.
The original deadline for the applications or nominations to the premier post in the judiciary was extended by the JBC from Feb. 15 to Feb. 26.
Bernabe was appointed to the SC on Sept. 16, 2011.  She was a judge of the metropolitan trial court and regional trial court before her appointment to the Court of Appeals in 2004.
Gesmundo was appointed SC associate justice on Aug. 14, 2017.  His SC appointment was a promotion from his associate justice post in the Sandiganbayan, the anti-graft court.
Hernando, on the other hand, was appointed to the SC on Oct. 10, 2018. 
He was a government prosecutor, a judge of the regional trial court, and CA associate justice.
Both Gesmundo and Hernando are SC appointees of President Duterte.