Chief Justice Lucas Bersamin said this yesterday as he gave assurance that Duterte has never pressured the high court to decide favorably for the administration in any case.
Edu Punay
Supreme Court chief: Judiciary remains independent
Edu Punay (The Philippine Star) - May 23, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The judiciary remains independent of the executive branch despite President Duterte having more appointees in the Supreme Court (SC) than either of the past two chief executives before him.

Chief Justice Lucas Bersamin said this yesterday as he gave assurance that Duterte has never pressured the high court to decide favorably for the administration in any case.

“I don’t think the President has ever controlled the Supreme Court; probably in another time in our history, (the perception) was warranted,” he said in his speech during the Management Association of the Philippines-Judicial Reform Initiative meeting at a hotel in Makati City.

Bersamin, who was appointed to the top judicial post by Duterte in November last year, attested that the President has not attempted to influence the SC justices on how to rule, especially on high-profile cases involving policies of the administration, since he assumed the presidency in 2016.

“As far as the incumbent President is concerned, he will get the opportunity to appoint so many of them, now history is too early to tell. But as far as I am concerned, while I was there I have not experienced any doubt where I stood and here you have 15 independent minded people who talk about cases and when you get a majority it is very democratic,” Bersamin said.

“It does not point back to the office in Malacañang to account the number of votes it might get either way,” he stressed.

Duterte has so far appointed eight magistrates to the high court – now Ombudsman Samuel Martires and now retired justice Noel Tijam as well as incumbent Associate Justices Andres Reyes Jr., Alexander Gesmundo, Jose Reyes Jr., Ramon Paul Hernando, Rosmari Carandang and Amy Lazaro-Javier. 

He is expected to name another SC justice soon to take the place vacated by the promotion of Bersamin, and two others later this year when the Chief Justice and Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio retire.

By that time, Duterte would have appointed eight of the incumbent justices of SC that could constitute a controlling majority.

Bersamin vowed that the court will remain independent of the appointing authority, as what has been proven in the past.

The SC chief cited the court during the nine-year term of former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo where she was able to appoint over 20 justices to the SC. 

Bersamin recalled that Arroyo was not able to control her appointees as many of them voted against her interests in key cases.

He assured the public that the SC under his watch will rule on cases purely based on the merits and that justice would be “swift and fair.”

Bersamin added that he would like to be remembered as a chief justice under whom the “Supreme Court was faithful to the oath that we all took and that there would be no scandal, we would be serving our objective of ridding the judiciary of unfit and misfit justices or judges.”

LUCAS BERSAMIN SUPREME COURT
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