Justice Bernabe is acting chief justice if Duterte has not named Peralta’s successor on March 27

Published March 25, 2021, 4:29 PM

by Rey Panaligan 

Supreme Court (SC) Senior Associate Justice Estela M. Perlas Bernabe assumes as acting chief justice starting at 12:01 a.m. on March 27 if President Duterte has not appointed a chief justice at that time.

Supreme Court (SC) Senior Associate Justice Estela M. Perlas Bernabe
(Supreme Court of the Philippines Website / FILE PHOTO)

Chief Justice Diosdado M. Peralta is officially retired at exactly 12:01 a.m. on March 27, a year before his mandatory retirement at age 70 on his birthday on March 27, 2022.

Bernabe and SC Associate Justices Alexander G. Gesmundo and Ramon Paul L. Hernando have been nominated by the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) to the post of chief justice.

The automatic assumption of the most senior associate justice as acting chief justice is under the internal rules of the SC and has been  practiced traditionally since then.

In many cases, the outgoing chief justice would issue an order that would designate the most senior associate justice as acting chief justice.

It is expected that Peralta would issue an order before the end of office hours on Friday, March 26.

Peralta’s order would be moot if the President appoints a chief justice from any of the three JBC nominees on or before 12:01 a.m. on March 27.

On Thursday, March 25, Peralta was honored by the judiciary in a blended retirement ceremony during an online special en banc (full court) session of the SC.

Fourteen incumbent justices participated online, including the heads of offices in the SC and other court officials and employees nationwide.

Peralta was physically joined in the session hall by members of his immediate family — his 95 year old mother Catalina Madarang Peralta, wife and Court of Appeals Senior Associate Justice Fernanda Lampas Peralta, and their children Dorothy who is a lawyer, twins John Christopher and Timothy John, and John Isaac.

As in past retirement ceremonies for SC members, Peralta was given tokens by his colleagues who also paid their tributes.

The tokens included the Philippine and SC flags, commemorative pin, watch, SC seal and pen, ring, judicial robe, and gavel.

Retired Chief Justices Artemio V. Panganiban, Teresita J. Leonardo de Castro, and Lucas P. Bersamin; incumbent and retired justices from the SC, Court of Appeals, Court of Tax Appeals, and the Sandiganbayan; SC officials; government officials; and former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. Arroyo joined the retirement ceremony online.

It was then President Arroyo who appointed Peralta as associate justice and presiding justice of the Sandiganbayan, and as associate justice of the SC.

In his message, Peralta said he was leaving the SC “without any regret, knowing that I did all that I could for the law, for the courts, and for the nation, and with the conviction that I did my best in performing my bounden duty to the Constitution.”

“Given every challenge and difficulty that the Judiciary faced these past months, I believe I have done everything within my authority as Chief Justice to leave behind me a better and improved Judiciary. I have led, and lived, by example. I look forward to the world outside the Supreme Court with the thought that, at my age, life is still full of possibilities,” he said.