From left to right: Diosdado Peralta, Teresita De Castro, Lucas Bersamin, Andres Reyes, Virginia Tejano-Ang
Philstar.com/Erwin Cadagas
Rundown: Views of chief justice applicants on key issues
Gaea Katreena Cabico (Philstar.com) - August 16, 2018 - 11:44pm

MANILA, Philippines — The Judicial and Bar Council on Thursday quizzed candidates vying to take the seat vacated by Maria Lourdes Sereno when her appointment as chief justice was nullified in May.  

The next chief magistrate will be one of the following:

  • Lucas Bersamin
  • Teresita De Castro
  • Diosdado Peralta
  • Andres Reyes
  • Virginia Tejano-Ang

The applicants faced JBC ex-officio member Sen. Richard Gordon, retired SC Associate Justice Jose Mendoza, retired Judge Toribio Ilao and lawyer Milagros Fernan-Cayosa. They were asked about their backgrounds, intention in applying and their positions on various issues.

Lucas Bersamin

Should he become the next chief justice, Bersamin said he would push for the enhancement of powers of the JBC on the selection and vetting of candidates for the judgeship position and the improvement of the Philippine Judicial Academy as the training arm for incumbent and aspiring judges and justices.

He also vowed to expand the court’s judicial decisions to the public, improve the infrastructure of trial courts and enhance the capacity of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines to discipline lawyers.

Should he become the country’s top judge, he would hold the position until October 18, 2019.

On judicial independence: Bersamin believes that the SC is “political” like the executive and legislative branches of the government.

“It is a political agency in the sense that Supreme Court also issues policy statements regarding matters that affect the entire country. If it is a political agency, it is also suffering pressure from those who make up executive and legislative bodies of government,” he said.

But he claimed that he “never felt [pressured]” by other government branches.

“They have been respectful to judges and justices. This is demonstrated by how the Supreme Court has arrived at each decision, especially at sensitive cases like DAP and PDAF.”

On delicadeza: Ilao asked Bersamin his thoughts on “delicadeza” being raised by netizens. Bersamin was one of the six justices sought by Sereno to inhibit from participating in the deliberation of the quo warranto.

“I must insist na kung sila they feel so much that I have no delicadeza, they should also ask whoever voted in favor. Unfortunately, walang sumali ngayon na nag-pabor kay Justice Sereno.”

On jump in his SALN: Bersamin said he receives an allowance as a member of the Senate Electoral Tribunal.

The wealth of his wife, who is a businesswoman, also contributed to the increase in his SALN.

He added that the increase in his assets is due to cash deposits and a purchase of a condominium unit.

On dealing with “unnecessary” cases: He said that it is high time for the SC to be strict on a filtering system to reduce the volume of cases.

“There is really a necessity for members of court to filter unnecessary, unworthy cases.”

READBersamin asserts judicial independence during JBC interview
 

Teresita De Castro

De Castro, who has been serving the judiciary for more than four decades, is the most senior among the SC justices vying for the chief justice post.

She would retire on October 10, giving her only two months at most to serve as chief justice should she become one. But De Castro maintained that she could institute changes in a short span of time.

Cayosa and Ilao raised that having only a few months to serve might be detrimental to the high court.

“It’s not like as if I’m going to start working on projects that will benefit the Supreme Court today. I have been doing this since 2009. I have accomplished much already. There are projects set for completion within this short period and I can start projects which may go beyond my term.”

On the reorganization of the ethics and ethical standards committee: One of the things she aims to do before she retires is to reorganize the ethics and ethical standards committee as it is only through this means that complaints against justices can be brought to the court.

“There must be a grievance machinery in the SC so we can discipline our own just like in Congress, they can discipline their colleagues.”

On netizens’ comment on her ‘bitterness’: Ilao asked De Casto about the social media comments on her supposed bitterness when she testified against Sereno in the impeachment proceedings at the House of Representatives.

De Castro said the people who criticized her were fed with wrong information.

“I won’t care to respond to that because the people who made those comments do not know anything. They have not dealt with me at all, they have not heard me or they have not spoken with me. They do that because of lack of knowledge. So I forgive them because they do not know what they are doing and they do not know the real person that I am.”

On relationship with Sereno: The justice stressed that she and the ousted chief magistrate were “able to work harmoniously.”

“I may have raised objections to some of her official actions but it was done through proper procedure and it did not affect our personal relationship.”

Her attendance in the impeachment proceedings against Sereno and her line of questioning during the oral arguments on the quo warranto case seemed to confirm a rift between them.

READAs retirement nears, De Castro says SC reform is still possible
 

Diosdado Peralta

Peralta was appointed to the high court by Arroyo in 2009.

The justice was a “Bar reviewer, professor, lecturer and resource person in Criminal Law, Criminal Procedure, Remedial Law and Trial Technique in notable universities,” according to his profile on the SC website.

He would hold the position of chief justice until March 27, 2022, should he become one.

On urging other members of the court to speedily resolve their pending cases: Respecting his colleagues’ way of resolving cases, Peralta said that the only help he could give is to “advise them that they should also adopt ways and means in order to reduce their dockets.”

Peralta has the most number of cases resolved within five years with 3,895.

On seniority rule: Peralta, one of the senior justices at the high court, said that seniority plays an important role in the choice for a chief justice. He, however, said that there are other things that need to be considered.

“You have to learn from experience. I can’t say that I’m the best or I know already the works of the chief justice. I still have to learn.”

On Marcos burial: Peralta, who penned the controversial decision that allowed the burial of late dictator Ferdinand Marcos Sr. at the Libingan ng mga Bayani, insisted that Filipinos should move on from the issue.

“I hope that issue has already been buried. Whatever is in the past, we have to move on. And I think we are now moving on,” he said.

When asked if he thinks his decision brought unity to the nation, Peralta answered in affirmative. “I think so. We do not anymore hear complaints about the burial of Marcos. We are now focused on other issues confronting the nation.”

Peralta, like Marcos, hails from Ilocos Norte. He used to be an assistant city fiscal in Laoag City.

On increase in his SALN: Peralta attributed the increase in his SALN to his membership in the House Electoral Tribunal and the income of his wife, Court of Appeals Associate Justice Fernanda Lampas Peralta.

He added that he received a lump sum pension from the Social Security System as a lawyer and law professor.

READMarcos burial brought closure and unity, Peralta claims
 

Andres Reyes

Reyes, who came from a family of justices, said he would like to “dedicate his life to the idea that justice could be served.”

“I am just offering myself, my services to the country. If accepted, I will work very hard.”

He is aiming for a faster Supreme Court.

Prior to his stint as associate justice of the Supreme Court, he previously served the Metropolitan Trial Court in Makati City, Regional Trial Court of Makati City, RTC of San Mateo, Rizal and Court of Appeals presiding justice.

He will hold the position until May 2020 if Duterte appoints him as chief justice.

On seniority rule: Reyes, the shortest to have served in the Supreme Court, is not deterred by his short stint.

He also believes that he will work well with more senior associate justices as some of them were his colleagues before.

“I have a vision of what I want to do as chief justice. I have to consult them and stress to them it will be en banc decision. It will be collegial body. What actions I take and what programs I will pursue will be in accordance with the decision of the en banc.”

On slow disposition of cases: Reyes said that addressing delays in the court would be a good point to start should he become the chief justice.

“We have to address delay from ourselves because if you don’t address delay from ourselves, how can we lead the lower courts and tell them to address this delay if we are not examples of no delay.”

On minority issue on the lower house: The justice believes the Supreme Court should not interfere or act on a petition filed by disgruntled lawmakers.

“I think we should not look into acts of the Congress. We should restrain ourselves and not interfere in the processes in the Congress.”

On impact of the ousters of Corona and Sereno: “It’s a wake-up call for us to be always on our toes and to be always adherent to the Constitution.”

He added that justices must work harder and be more faithful to their oath to regain the public’s respect for the Supreme Court.

READHard work will augment lack of experience at SC — Reyes
 

Virginia Tejano-Ang

Ang, the only applicant who is a Supreme Court outsider, did not intend to apply for the CJ post but was eyeing the position of associate justice.

“To tell you frankly, I did not apply for the position of chief justice. It so happened that when I applied for the position, that’s the vacant,” she said.

The judge of Tagum City Regional Trial Court Branch 1 added: “Pinaghirapan ko na po. Nandito na ako. Nagpa-interview pa ako, syempre pwede na po. Sayang naman ‘yung effort ko.”

If named as the country’s top judge, she would hold the position until July 2023.

On why she applied for Supreme Court: “The reason why I’m applying for that is because of my experience in the lower court. I want the Supreme Court to know about all of those so justice will really be served.”

On Duterte: Ang, who hails from Davao City, believes Duterte does not appoint based on where one hails from.

“You know, [President Duterte] is a fair man. It does not mean that if you are from Davao, he will choose you,” she said in Filipino.

READLone SC outsider did not really intend to pursue top judge post

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