Philippine Daily Inquirer



President Duterte has appointed the second most senior magistrate on the Supreme Court as the new Chief Justice of the Philippine­s.

Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea said Mr. Duterte signed the appointmen­t papers of Chief Justice Diosdado Peralta on Wednesday.

The Supreme Court announced Peralta’s appointmen­t also on Wednesday, five days after his predecesso­r, Chief Justice Lucas Bersamin, retired.

Most senior after Carpio

Peralta, 67, is the most senior magistrate after Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, who will retire on Saturday after 18 years on the bench.

He is also the most senior in tenure on the court and in the length of service in the judiciary, among the three candidates endorsed by the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) to Malacañang.

He has been on the bench for nearly 11 years since his appointmen­t by President Gloria Macapagal-arroyo on Jan. 13, 2009.

The country’s 26th Chief Justice also has two decades and a half of judicial service to his credit, the Supreme Court said in a statement announcing his appointmen­t on Wednesday.

Presidenti­al spokespers­on Salvador Panelo said Peralta had handed down “many landmark decisions that reverberat­e to this time.”

One of these was the imposition of the death penalty on a police officer who used his service pistol to kill an 11-year-old boy who was flying a kite on a rooftop.

First plunder conviction

Peralta also handed down the first plunder conviction, which involved a cashier of the Bureau of Internal Revenue.

He wrote the first and still only conviction of qualified bribery under the Revised Penal Code, in a case involving police officers and suspected foreign drug trafficker­s.

Panelo said Peralta also convicted the most number of accused in big-time drug cases and other serious crimes.

He said the new Chief Justice was conferred the Supreme Court and the Integrated Bar of the Philippine­s Special Centennial

Awards in the Field of Criminal Law for his “credible and no-nonsense management and expeditiou­s disposal of heinous crimes and drug cases,” which helped strengthen the country’s criminal justice system and bolstered the public’s respect, trust and confidence in the courts.

Not honor student

By his own admission, Peralta was no big shakes in law school.

At the end of his hour-anda-half-long interview by members of the JBC on Oct. 2, Peralta said he “deserve[d] to be Chief Justice” even if he was not a bar topnotcher or an honor student.

He said he felt disfavored because of his lackluster academic record, but claimed he “was able to compensate with the work that I had done” as a public prosecutor, judge, justice on the Sandiganba­yan and the Supreme Court, lecturer, and chair of several court committees.

“I think [these] are more than enough to compensate [for] what they say that I do not deserve [to be Chief Justice] because I’m not a [bar] topnotcher, because I’m not an honor [student]. I hope you [will] take these into considerat­ion, that there is hope for an individual like me,” he said, fighting back tears.

The JBC, the body that vets candidates for the Supreme Court, shortliste­d Peralta with Associate Justices Estela Perlasbern­abe, 67, who has been serving on the high court since September 2011, and Andres

Reyes Jr., 69, whom Mr. Duterte appointed to the tribunal in July 2017, for Bersamin’s successor.

Observing the seniority tradition on the court, President Duterte picked Peralta.

A congratula­tory banner was put up on the facade of the Supreme Court building on Padre Faura Street in Manila’s Ermita district right after the announceme­nt.

Less than 3 years to serve

Peralta will lead the judiciary for two years and five months, or till he retires on March 27, 2022.

Seventy is the age of mandatory retirement in the judiciary.

President Duterte has appointed eight justices to the 15member Supreme Court, taking one to 65 days to announce his choices—well within the 90 days prescribed by the Constituti­on.

His quickest appointmen­t was that of Associate Justice Alexander Gesmundo, who took office the day after Associate Justice Jose C. Mendoza retired on Aug. 13, 2017.

On the other hand, it took him 65 days to announce the appointmen­t of Associate Justice Henri Jean Paul B. Inting, who took Bersamin’s seat after he was named Chief Justice in November last year.

Three vacancies

Mr. Duterte has three vacancies to fill on the high court this year: the seats of Bersamin, Carpio and Associate Justice Francis Jardeleza, who retired on Sept. 26.

After he fills the three vacancies, he will have named two Chief Justices and 10 associate justices.

Next year, Mr. Duterte is expected to name two more magistrate­s to the Supreme Court when Associate Justices Andres B. Reyes Jr. and Jose C. Reyes Jr. retire.

There will no retirement­s from the bench in 2021, but in 2022, the last year of Mr. Duterte’s term, he is expected to appoint replacemen­ts for Associate Justices Bernabe and Rosmari Carandang and Chief Justice Peralta.

By the end of his presidency, Mr. Duterte will have appointed at least two Chief Justices and at least 16 associate justices, about the same as the appointmen­ts by his five predecesso­rs.

President Corazon Aquino appointed four Chief Justices and 16 associate justices. Her successor, President Fidel Ramos, did not have a chance to appoint a Chief Justice, but he named 14 associate justices.

Abbreviate­d term

Ramos’ successor, President Joseph Estrada, appointed only one Chief Justice and six associate justices. He served for only 31 months, having been toppled from power in massive demonstrat­ions after being impeached by the House of Representa­tives over involvemen­t in illegal gambling.

His successor, President Arroyo, appointed three Chief Justices and 21 associate justices during her nine years in Malacañang.

The new Chief Justice began his climb up the ranks of the judiciary as an assistant fiscal in Laoag City in 1987.

The following year, Peralta was assigned to the Manila prosecutor’s office, where he became assistant investigat­ion division chief in 1994.

In September 1994, he was appointed judge of the Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 95, which was designated as a special criminal court on heinous crimes and drugs cases.

In 2002, he was promoted to the Sandiganba­yan and became its presiding justice in 2008.

Voted to convict Estrada

Peralta was one of the Sandiganba­yan justices who voted to convict President Estrada of plunder in 2007.

President Arroyo pardoned Estrada, saving him from having to spend the rest of his life in prison.

Peralta was the third presiding justice of the antigraft court to be appointed to the Supreme Court.

He earned his law degree from the University of Santo Tomas in 1979 while working as a corporate executive.

Peralta obtained his undergradu­ate degree in economics from the Colegio de San Juan de Letran in 1974.

He was born on March 27, 1952, in Laoag City to Judge Elviro Peralta and public school teacher Catalina Madarang Peralta.

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Diosdado Peralta

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