MANILA- Chief Justice Teresita Leonardo-De Castro asserted her independence from President Rodrigo Duterte, amid allegations that her appointment was the chief executive's way of paying a debt of gratitude.
"I will have no problem about maintaining the independence of the judiciary," said De Castro on Tuesday, during her first press conference as the country's top magistrate.
She insisted she has yet to talk to Duterte.
"I'd like to inform everyone that up to this time I have not met the President. I have not seen him, I have not approached him either directly or through anybody," De Castro added.
"He (Duterte) appointed me without knowing me personally. I don't think the President will do anything that will impair the independence of the judiciary," she added.
The 69-year-old De Castro took her oath Tuesday morning, replacing Maria Lourdes Sereno, whom she helped oust over failure to fully disclose her wealth.
Sereno was known to have been at odds with Duterte during her time in the top court.
Malacañang earlier debunked allegations that the President was paying a debt of gratitude when he appointed De Castro, saying the chief executive "upheld judicial professionalism."
The Palace also noted that De Castro has "infinitely more experience" than her predecessor, Sereno.
De Castro thanked Duterte for giving importance to seniority in the judiciary, stressing that it is a "time-honored tradition."
"We would like to express our appreciation that the President has that strong political will to see to it that the merit system which is the hallmark of appointment in public service is followed and upholding the time-honored tradition of seniority in the Supreme Court," she said.
De Castro is expected to head the judiciary for more than a month only since she is set to retire in October.