De Castro accepts nomination as Chief Justice

Ina Reformina, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jul 26 2018 04:46 PM | Updated as of Jul 26 2018 05:09 PM

MANILA (UPDATED) - With a government service record spanning 45 years, Supreme Court (SC) Associate Justice Teresita Leonardo-De Castro formally accepted her nomination for Chief Justice on Thursday, the last day for the submission of applications. 

Should she be President Rodrigo Duterte’s pick for the top judicial post, De Castro shall (1) have served at the helm of two collegial courts — the high court and the Sandiganbayan, having served as Presiding Justice of the latter from 2004 up to 2007; and (2) be the first lady Philippine Chief Justice following the ouster of Maria Lourdes Sereno and the voiding of her appointment on ground of ineligibility.

De Castro, set to retire in October, was nominated by the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC), the body constitutionally mandated to screen applicants for the judiciary, along with the 4 other most senior justices. She was also nominated by retired Sandiganbayan Associate Justice and ex-JBC member Raoul Victorino, who nominated all incumbent high court magistrates.

De Castro’s entire professional career has been in government, beginning right where she is now - the SC - in 1973 as law clerk, fresh from the 1973 Bar Examinations.

She finished law, among the top 4 in her class, in 1972 at the University of the Philippines.

Two years following her entry to the SC, De Castro was designated judicial assistant and member of the technical staff of Chief Justice Fred Ruiz Castro, a position she held up to 1978. 

Thereafter, she moved to the Department of Justice (DOJ) as State Counsel I up to 1981; she was promoted to State Counsel II in 1981.

Four years later, in 1985, she was again promoted to Senior State Counsel; she stayed in the post for 2 years, up to 1987.

In 1988, De Castro was promoted again as DOJ Supervising State Counsel and chief of the DOJ Legal Staff. 

From 1988 to 1997, De Castro was designated by President Corazon Aquino and President Fidel Ramos as one of government’s international and peace negotiators. In 1998, Mr. Ramos awarded her with the Presidential Medal of Merit for Exceptionally Meritorious and Valuable Service Rendered and Remarkable Accomplishments that have served the interest of peace, unity and progress in Southern Philippines.

Her career at the DOJ culminated in her designation as Assistant Chief State Counsel in 1997, and on the same year she was appointed by Mr. Ramos as Associate Justice of the Sandiganbayan.

Six years later, in 2004, she became the Sandiganbayan's Presiding Justice. 

In 2012, De Castro was elected president of the International Association of Women Judges which has a membership of over 100 countries. She is also currently the president of the Philippine Women Judges Association. 

At the high court, De Castro is the Working Chairperson of the First Division, Chairperson of the Management Committee of the Judicial Reform Support Project, Working Vice-Chairperson of the Committee on Ethics and Ethical Standards and of the Halls of Justice Coordinating Committee, Chairperson of the Committee on Computerization and Library, the Committee on Gender Responsiveness in the Judiciary, and the Special Committee to Draft Rules on Sexual Harassment in the Judiciary, and Member of the Supreme Court Internal Rules Committee.

DECISIONS/PONENCIAS

March 2008

Upheld the presidential communications/executive privilege, a decision that kept the political branches of government “within constitutional bounds in the exercise of their respective powers and prerogatives, even if it be in the search for truth.” The case involves the Senate’s contempt and arrest order against National Economic and Development Authority director general Romulo Neri over its inquiry into the 2007 contract between the Department of Transportation and Communication and Zhong Xing Telecommunications Equipment (ZTE) for the supply of equipment and services for the National Broadband Network (NBN) Project in the amount of U.S. $ 329,481,290 (approximately P16 Billion Pesos). 

April 2011

Reversed a Court of Appeals decision involving a libel case against Philippine Daily Inquirer officials and news personnel, and ruled to dismiss said case against publisher Isagani Yambot, editor-in-chief Letty Jimenez-Magsanoc, managing editor Jose Ma. Nolasco, news editor Artemio Engracia and senior reporter Volt Contreras in relation to an article about a supposed mauling incident involving a Makati Regional Trial Court judge.

June 2011

Upheld the jurisdiction of the regional trial courts of General Santos City and Davao City to try a P1.3-billion damage claim by close to 500 plaintiffs against multinational companies Shell Oil Co., DOW Chemica Co., Occidental Chemical Corp. Standard Fruit Co., Standard Fruit & Steamship Co., Dole Food Co. Inc., Dole Fresh Fruit Co., Del Monte Fresh Produce N.A., Del Monte Tropical Fruit Co., Chiquita Brands International, Inc. and Chiquita Brands Inc. Plaintiffs allegedly sustained from exposure to harmful chemical, dibromochloropropane. 

June 2011

Affirmed the jurisdiction of the Commission on Audit (COA) to conduct audit over the funds of the Boy Scouts of the Philippines, which the high court found to be a public corporation subject to COA’s audit jurisdiction. 

October 2011

Struck down the Retirement/Financial Plan (RFP) of the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) and affirmed a Commission on Audit (COA) decision to disallow some P66.63 million in retirement benefits to several of the state pension fund's officers and employees, stressing that the purpose of the RFP must be “to augment the retirement benefits [GSIS employees] would receive” and “not to encourage GSIS employees to retire before their retirement age.” 

January 2012

Affirmed the dismissal of a petition filed by the Philippine National Bank involving its tax refund claim against the Bureau of Internal Revenue. 

July 2012

Ordered the Province of Aklan, the Philippine Reclamation Authority, and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources to cease and desist from implementing phase 1 of its reclamation project in Barangay Caticlan, Municipality of Malay, Aklan intended for port expansion and commercial purposes.

July 2013

Granted the petitions of the Coalition of Senior Citizens in the Philippines and reversed the party-list's disqualification by the Commission on Elections. The case, decided unanimously by the SC, is the same case raised at the House impeachment hearings against Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, where Sereno was alleged to have altered the temporary restraining order recommended by De Castro in favor of said party-list petitioner. Sereno issued a TRO that covered not only the party-list petitioner, but one that prevented the proclamation of the remaining winners in the 2013 party-list race. 

January 2015

Junked the disqualification case against former president now Manila Mayor Joseph "Erap" Ejercito Estrada, ruling that the pardon granted him by President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo restored his civil and political rights thereby enabling him eligible to run in the 2013 polls. De Castro was also part of the Sandiganbayan special division that convicted Estrada of plunder, the very case that was the subject of the presidential pardon. 

July 2015

Declared properties of the Mactan-Cebu International Airport Authority (MCIAA), consisting of the “airport terminal building, airfield, runway, taxiway and the lots on which they are situated,” exempt from the real property tax imposed by the City of Lapu-lapu for being properties “of public dominion because they are intended for public use.” The decision also declared null and void the sale of 27 of MCIAA's properties, which were earlier sold in public auction for delinquency in realty tax obligations.
 
March 2017

Struck down the Judicial and Bar Council’s (JBC) scheme of clustering nominees for multiple vacancies in the judiciary, thereby affirming the President’s power to make appointments in the judiciary. The case was also subject of the House impeachment hearings against ousted CJ Sereno, where then JBC chair Sereno was said to have caused the clustering scheme to favor her personal bets. The clusters clipped the President’s appointing power by limiting the President’s choice for each vacant position to each cluster of names submitted by the JBC instead of allowing him to choose from all shortlisted candidates. 

July 2017

Dismissed the petition pleading for the SC to order Congress to convene into joint session on President Rodrigo Duterte’s the declaration of martial law in Mindanao and suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus in the southern Philippine region. The ruling stressed that the 1987 Constitution has no provision mandating Congress to convene in joint session to determine the validity of the declaration of martial law or suspension of the privilege of the writ.

VOTING HISTORY

December 2010

Voted to strike down as unconstitutional President Benigno Simeon Aquino’s Executive Order No. 1, Creating the Truth Commission for limiting its scope only to the previous Arroyo administration thereby violating the equal protection clause in the 1987 Constitution

November 2011

Voted in favor of the distribution of Cojuangco-owned Hacienda Luisita’s 4,915-hectare farmlands to farmer-beneficiaries

November 2013

Voted to declare the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) unconstitutional

July 2014

Voted to strike down as unconstitutional the Aquino administration’s Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) and the budget department's Circular No. 541 that authorized the withdrawal of unobligated and unutilized funds to fund the program. The decision also stated that government officials (authors, proponents, implementors of DAP) may be held liable for the release of public funds under the stimulus package. 

March 2016Voted that Senator Grace Poe is not a natural-born Filipino and failed to meet the residency eligibility requirement to run for president in the May 2016 polls

November 2016Voted in favor of the burial of President Ferdinand Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani 

October 2017

Voted to uphold the arrest of Senator Leila De Lima over alleged involvement in the National Bilibid Prison illegal drug trade 

December 2017

Voted to uphold the constitutionality of President Rodrigo Duterte’s imposition of Martial law in Mindanao and suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus

February 2018

Voted to uphold the constitutionality of President Rodrigo Duterte’s yearlong extension of Martial Law in Mindanao

June 2018 (final decision)

Voted to oust Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno on petition for quo warranto, ruling that she was ineligible for the post for failure to faithfully file her annual sworn Statements of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth during her 20-year teaching stint at the University of the Philippines College of Law, and submitting only 3 instead of 10 SALNs upon her application for Chief Justice in July 2012