MANILA (2nd UPDATE) — Chief Justice Diosdado Peralta will retire from his post a year early, the high court's spokesman said Tuesday, allowing President Rodrigo Duterte to name at least one more top magistrate before his term ends in 2022.
Peralta, who was appointed top magistrate in October 2019, will retire on March 27, 2021, his 69th birthday, according to Supreme Court spokesperson Brian Hosaka. The mandatory retirement age for high court justices is 70.
"The Chief Justice did not elaborate further but said that he will make a formal announcement in due time," Hosaka said.
He was the 3rd chief justice that Duterte named after the ouster of Maria Lourdes Sereno as chief magistrate in 2018. Sereno’s high court stint was supposed to outlast Duterte’s presidency but she was removed on a quo warranto petition filed by Duterte’s Solicitor General, Jose Calida.
Peralta succeeded former chief magistrates Lucas Bersamin and Teresita de Castro, who served for just 44 days after Sereno was booted out.
Peralta was first appointed to the high court in January 2009 as associate justice and served as Sandiganbayan associate and presiding justice from 2002 to 2008. In both instances, he was appointed by then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
Among high-profile decisions Peralta penned at the high court was the November 2016 ruling upholding the legality of the controversial burial of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani.
He also wrote 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 the expanded good conduct time allowance (GCTA) law.
Peralta also voted to uphold the legality of administration critic Sen. Leila De Lima’s February 2017 arrest, the declaration of martial law in Mindanao and its extensions, and the closure of Boracay island in 2018 for rehabilitation.
He was in favor of Sereno’s ouster and was among justices who testified against her during the House of Representatives probe on the impeachment complaint against the former high court chief.
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.
DUTERTE TO APPOINT 4TH CHIEF JUSTICE
With Peralta’s early retirement from the high court, Duterte will get to select a new magistrate — his 4th since he took office in 2016.
The next 5 most senior justices are automatically nominated for the chief justice post: Senior Associate Justice Estela Perlas-Bernabe and Associate Justices Marvic Leonen, Alfredo Benjamin Caguioa, Alexander Gesmundo and Ramon Paul Hernando.
The first 3 were appointed by former President Benigno Aquino III, the last 2 by Duterte.
Bernabe has until May 15, 2022 before she reaches mandatory retirement age while Leonen and Caguioa are expected to stay in court until 2032 and 2029, respectively.
The Office of the Solicitor-General (OSG), along with lawyer Lorenzo Gadon, has initiated moves to oust Leonen with the threat of a quo warranto petition over his statements of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN). The Supreme Court has unanimously turned down their request for SALN.
The OSG, together with defeated vice presidential candidate Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr., had also sought to remove Leonen as justice in charge of the election protest Marcos filed against Vice President Leni Robredo, which the SC, sitting as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal had also denied.
Gesmundo, whom Peralta has tapped to initiate reforms in the Supreme Court’s rules, is 64 and won’t retire until 2026 while Hernando is the youngest justice in the high court at only 54. He is not expected to retire until 2036.
Peralta’s retirement will open another vacancy for an associate justice post in the high court.
Associate Justice Priscilla Baltazar-Padilla retired in November due to “physical disability,” after being appointed only in July.
— Mike Navallo, ABS-CBN News