Duterte picks Peralta as new Chief Justice

Mike Navallo, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 23 2019 03:19 PM | Updated as of Oct 23 2019 08:35 PM

Chief Justice Diosdado Peralta. Photo from Supreme Court of the Philippines website

MANILA (2nd UPDATE) – In the end, the magistrate who said he deserves to be chief got what he believes he has earned.

President Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday appointed Supreme Court Associate Justice Diosdado Peralta as the country’s next top magistrate, replacing his friend, Chief Justice Lucas Bersamin who stepped down on Oct. 18.

Both Malacañang and the high court confirmed the appointment.

"We are certain that with Chief Justice Peralta at the helm of the Supreme Court, the Judiciary will continue to be well-managed as it thrives to uphold the principles of judicial excellence, integrity, and independence," Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said.

Peralta is expected to remain at the high court's helm until March 2022. 

Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio had served as the high court's acting chief for a few days. He is also set to retire on Oct. 26.

During his interview with the Judicial and Bar Council early this month, Peralta told the panel while fighting back tears: “I deserve to be Chief Justice because I worked very hard all these years.”

Peralta was appointed to the high court in January 2009. Previously, he was Sandiganbayan associate and presiding justice from 2002 to 2008.

In both instances, he was appointed by then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. 

A native of Laoag City, Ilocos Norte, he graduated from the University of Santo Tomas Faculty of Civil Law in 1979 and worked in the private sector before he joined the government as an assistant city prosecutor in 1987.

In 1994, he was appointed regional trial court judge in Quezon City, where he became close friends with Bersamin.

SC DECISIONS AND VOTING RECORD

Among the high-profile decisions Peralta penned while at the high court were the November 2016 ruling upholding the legality of the burial of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani, the August 2017 decision allowing plea bargaining in small-time drug cases, the September 2018 decision requiring mandatory compliance with chain of custody requirements in drug cases, and the June 2019 ruling granting retroactive application of RA 10592 or the expanded good conduct time allowance law. 

In March 2018, he voted to uphold the validity of Philippine Airlines’ retrenchment of flight attendants and stewards, though he voted to invalidate the retrenchment 9 years earlier.

He also voted to uphold the legality of Sen. Leila De Lima’s February 2017 arrest, the declaration of martial law in Mindanao and its extensions, and the closure of Boracay Island last year for rehabilitation. 

He also voted in favor of the ouster of former Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno and was among justices who testified against Sereno during the House of Representatives probe on the impeachment complaint against her.

Peralta also voted to dismiss the same-sex marriage petition and the writ of kalikasan petition filed by the Integrated Bar of the Philippines and fishermen from Zambales and Palawan. 

He likewise joined the majority in fining water concessionaires Maynilad and Manila Water with over P921 million each for violating the Philippine Clean Water Act, requiring the Office of the Solicitor General to furnish petitioners in the petition against Oplan Tokhang with thousands of police case files, and allowing Mary Jane Veloso, the detained Filipina on death row in Indonesia, to testify via a written deposition in the human trafficking and illegal recruitment case in Nueva Ecija.

Prior to the Duterte administration, Peralta's notable votes were for declaring unconstitutional the Priority Development Assistance Fund, allegedly misappropriated through fake NGOs, and former President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III’s truth commission. 

He also voted in favor of the distribution of Cojuangco-owned Hacienda Luisita’s 4,915-hectare farmlands to farmer-beneficiaries and Sen. Grace Poe’s natural-born Filipino citizenship.

His fellow Supreme Court Associate Justice Marvic Leonen described Peralta as a“passionate leader, absorbed by his desire for efficiency and transparency in all levels of courts” and whose expertise in criminal law and procedure is “unrivaled and unparalleled.”

Bersamin designated him to take the lead in revising the Court’s procedural rules particularly the Rules of Court, the rules on small claims cases, continuous trial and admiralty cases, among others.

PLANS FOR SUPREME COURT

Asked about his plans for the high court should he be chosen as the top magistrate, Peralta told the JBC early this month that he intends to address the backlog of cases, continue revisions to the Rules of Court, train justices and monitor performance of judges.

Amidst the rising number of lawyers, prosecutors and judges being killed in the country since 2016, Peralta said he would support a bill establishing a marshal system under the control of the Supreme Court.

To address lack of court personnel, he said he would push for a bill exempting the judiciary from the salary standardization law.

KEY DECISIONS TO MAKE

As head of the SC, Peralta will preside the Court in resolving several high-stakes cases such as the election protest filed by former senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. against Vice President Leni Robredo, in SC’s capacity as Presidential Electoral Tribunal.

The Court has also yet to rule on petitions questioning the legality of: Presidential Proclamation No. 572 which voided former senator Antonio Trillanes’ amnesty, the Bangsamoro Organic Law, the PLDT-Globe co-use agreement, anti-drug operation Oplan Tokhang, the Philippines’ withdrawal from the International Criminal Court, the EDSA provincial bus ban, the Department of Justice and Department of the Interior and Local Government’s revised implementing rules on good conduct time allowance, and the presidential coverage ban on news website Rappler.

- With a report from Arianne Merez, ABS-CBN News