MANILA—(2ND UPDATE) President Rodrigo Duterte has appointed Supreme Court Associate Justice Teresita Leonardo-De Castro as chief justice, less than 2 months before her mandatory retirement, Palace officials said Saturday.
De Castro, 69, is the second woman to serve as chief justice. She replaces Maria Lourdes Sereno, whose appointment the high court invalidated last May for failure to fully disclose her wealth.
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra and other government officials released statements reacting to De Castro's appointment, which was announced 45 days before she steps down on October 8.
"I expect, I’m very optimistic, that whatever proposal I make in this short period of time will still have the support of my colleagues which have been very supportive already," De Castro said on August 17, as the Judicial and Bar Council screened applicants to replace Sereno.
De Castro assumes leadership of the Supreme Court as it hears former senator Ferdinand "Bongbong" Marcos Jr.'s protest against Vice President Leni Robredo. The court also sits as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal.
De Castro is the most senior member of the Supreme Court and has served in government for 45 years. She was presiding justice at the Sandiganbayan anti-graft court before she joined the top court.
She was among those who voted to oust Sereno through unprecedented "quo warranto" proceedings initiated by Solicitor General Jose Calida.
De Castro and 6 other associate justices are facing an impeachment complaint at the House of Representatives for alleged betrayal of public trust over Sereno's removal.
Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, one of those who filed the impeachment complaint, expressed hope that De Castro's appointment can still be reconsidered given that Malacañang has yet to release her appointment papers.
"Until the President signs the appointment of presumptive Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Teresita de Castro, then there could still be some reasons to reconsider that listing of De Castro..." he told ANC Saturday.
"The fact that the presumptive new chief justice will be appointed very soon by the President, that means to say that everything was rushed and the impeachment complaint should have been given due consideration," he added.
The new chief justice was also among magistrates who voted in favor of former president Ferdinand Marcos' burial at the Libingan ng mga Bayani in 2016.
Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque praised De Castro's appointment, saying: "Bravo! Best choice for CJ! Proven competence, known nationalist and a streak of being a judicial activist!"