Supreme Court Associate Justices Samuel Martires and (right ) Hon. Lucas Bersamin
Associate Justice Lucas Bersamin defends P18-million wealth
Evelyn Macairan (The Philippine Star) - August 17, 2018 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — Supreme Court (SC) Associate Justice Lucas Bersamin defended the jump in his statement of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN) – P18 million in a span of five years – before the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC), which is screening applicants for the position of chief justice.

He attributed the jump to his being a member of the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET), Senate Electoral Tribunal (SET) and House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal (HRET) from which he received “very substantial” allowances. 

JBC regular member Maria Milagros Fernan-Cayosa reviewed his SALN from 2013 to 2017 and said he had a remarkable jump in his SALN, noting that this went up by P5 million in 2013-2014, another P2 million from 2014-2015, P8 million from 2015 to 2016 and another P3 million from 2016-2017.

Bersamin said he also jointly declared his SALN with his wife, a businesswoman who imports high quality movie-making equipment and, at times, making substantial contributions in the bank.

In 2015, his wife acquired a condominium unit in Avida, which was only “reported after it was paid fully.”

“I believe at that time not to declare if we are still paying. The compliance committee of the SC has not called my attention to that mistake, if it was a mistake,” he explained, adding that his wife would be willing to sign a waiver if the JBC would see the need to further look into their accounts and assets.

The associate justice also expects another jump in his SALN for next year as he is yet to receive the remuneration for chairing the Bar Exams last year.

JBC member Toribio Ilao Jr. also asked Bersamin to comment on the call of some netizens for him to show delicadeza by not applying for the top SC position since he was among those who voted in favor of the quo warranto petition against former chief justice Maria Lourdes Sereno. The netizens claimed he would benefit from Sereno’s removal.

“The problem with delicadeza (is it) has no definite rules. Even if I was involved in the issue of the quo warranto, if I would inhibit myself from the application, it should also inhibit those (who voted in support of) justice Sereno,” Bersamin said.  

Associate Justice Teresita de Castro also appeared in yesterday’s JBC public interview of those applying for the top SC post and was asked how she would react to netizens’ calling her “ampalaya” (bitter melon), in apparent reference to the time that she lost the search for a chief justice in 2012 to Sereno.

“I do not care to respond to that because the people who gave those comments do not know anything. They have not dealt with me at all, they have not spoken with me. I think they do that because of lack of knowledge and so I forgive them because they do not know what they are doing. They don’t know the real person that I am. It is useless to address that…They might be acting on wrong information fed to them,” she said.

While she was one of the SC justices who testified against Sereno, she believed that they had a harmonious relationship. “I may have raised objections to some of her official actions but it was done through proper procedure and it never affected our personal relationship. In fact, she appointed me as committee chair on family court and juvenile concerns.”

As for her age, JBC member Maria Milagros Fernan-Cayosa asked if it would be wise to appoint her as chief when she could only serve two months or until she retires on Oct. 8.

The 69-year-old De Castro said that she would make sure that the SC projects that were put on hold would be implemented even after she retires. The projects include the judiciary case management system, which would serve as a tracking system on the progress of a particular case, and training of judges for family courts.

JBC regular member Jose Mendoza described her as a competent jurist, leader and administrator, a view supported by ex officio member Sen. Richard Gordon. 

SC Associate Justice Diosdado Peralta, who was also interviewed, was asked if he believed Filipinos who were affected and against the SC’s decision to allow the burial of former president Ferdinand Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani have found closure and healing. It was Peralta who penned the controversial ruling. 

“I hope that issue has really been buried, your honor, because if we do not bury that then we cannot move on and I still believe that whatever is the past we have to move on, we will not improve as a nation if we do that… I think we are moving on. The issues now are not about Marcos. There are so many issues other than the issue of burial of the late Marcos,” said Peralta.

De Castro, Bersamin and Peralta all voted the same way in the following cases: for the ouster of Sereno as well as for the burial of Marcos at the Libingan, President Duterte’s declaration of martial law all over Mindanao, the acquittal of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo for plunder, and bail for former Senate president Juan Ponce Enrile.

All three justices are appointees of Arroyo. Another candidate for chief justice, Andres Reyes Jr., was promoted by Duterte to the SC from the Court of Appeals only this month.

Bersamin retires in 2019, Reyes in 2020 and Peralta in 2022.

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