Associate Justices Diosdado Peralta, Estela Perlas-Bernabe, Andres Reyes Jr. and Jose Reyes Jr. are vying for the chief justice post.
Composite photo by Asuncion, photos from Supreme Court website
Who's Who: The four vying to be the next chief justice
Kristine Joy Patag ( - October 2, 2019 - 9:18am

MANILA, Philippines — Chief Justice Lucas Bersamin is set to retire from the Supreme Court on October 18, and four of his colleagues at the tribunal are vying for his seat.

The four chief justice aspirants, all associate justices of the SC, will face the Judicial and Bar Council for a public interview on Wednesday, October 2.

President Rodrigo Duterte earlier defended his choices for the head of the Judiciary by citing the candidate’s “seniority” at the high court.

Get to know your next chief justice:

Associate Justice Diosdado Peralta

Retirement: March 27, 2022

Peralta is the most senior in terms of SC experience among the four aspirants. He has been serving the SC for more than a decade. President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo appointed him to the high court on Jan. 13, 2009.

Peralta, who hails from Ilocos Norte, started his career in  government as an assistant city fiscal in Laoag City in 1987.

In 1994, Peralta was appointed as a criminal court judge in Quezon City. Among the cases he handled were heinous crimes and drug-related cases. During his stint as a judge, he received several commendations.

Peralta has served as professor and Bar reviewer on Criminal Law. He also sat as chairperson of the 2014 Bar Examinations and the Special Shari’ah Bar Examinations.

Bersamin told members of the media on September 4 that Peralta was of significant help in leading the committee on revision of Rules of Court.  Peralta also led the adoption of the 2019 Guidelines on the Use of Videoconferencing Technology for Remote Court Appearance or Testimony of Persons Deprived of Liberty in Jails and National Penitentiaries which was pilot tested in Davao City.

Peralta penned the SC ruling that allowed the burial of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos’ remains at the Libingan ng mga Bayani.

Facing the JBC panel in 2018, Peralta stood by his ruling and said: “If we do not bury that issue, 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.”

Associate Justice Estela Perlas-Bernabe

Retirement: May 14, 2022

Estela-Bernabe hails from Plaridel, Bulacan. She graduated salutatorian from the Ateneo College of Law and passed the Bar in 1976.

She practiced legal work for China Banking Corp., Paramount Finance Corp., and the National Home Mortgage Finance Corporation from 1978 to 1993.

In 1996, she was appointed as Metropolitan Trial Court Judge in Makati, then was appointed to the Makati Regional Trial Court in 2002. After four years, she became a justice of the appellate court.

During the oath-taking of 2018 Bar passers, Bernabe told them to hold on to their integrity as they start on the path of the legal profession.

“Hard work is the foundation of your dreams. Keep in mind that no matter how talented or naturally gifted you are, there is no substitute for hard work,” Bernabe, who will chair the 2019 Bar said.

She wrote the 2013 decision that held that the Priority Development Assistance Funds (PDAF) or congressional pork barrel is unconstitutional.

Associate Justice Andres Reyes Jr.

Retirement: May 11, 2020

Reyes is vying for the chief justice post for the second time. Duterte appointed him to the high court in July 2017.

He is a third-generation justice. He took up law at the Ateneo de Manila University, and earned a Master’s degree in Public Administration from the Philippine Women’s University.

According to his profile on the SC website, Reyes served as a trial judge for 12 years, from 1987 to 1999.

Before assuming the post at the high tribunal he worked as the presiding justice of the Court of Appeals and served the Metropolitan Trial Court in Makati City, Regional Trial Court of Makati City and Regional Trial Court of San Mateo, Rizal. 

As the top judge of the appellate court, Reyes issued a joint statement with former Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno over the detention of the six employees of the Ilocos Norte local government. Rep. Pantaleon Alvarez, House speaker at the time, called the CA an “inferior court” and questioned its stand to release the “Ilocos Six.”

During the oral arguments on a fisherfolks' plea for a writ of kalikasan over parts of West Philippine Sea, Reyes said he was “saddened” that they were asking the government to enforce maritime laws when “we don’t have enough money.”

The justice said that Duterte and his officials may have ”other important things to do,” other than guarding Ayungin Shoal for 24 hours a day. The BRP Sierra Madre, which is grounded on Ayungin, has a complement of Marines on board.

Associate Justice Jose Reyes Jr.

Retirement: September 18, 2020

Justice Jose Reyes has the least experience working at the SC among the four applicants. Duterte appointed him to the high court in August 2018.

Reyes, like Duterte, is a graduate of San Beda College. He hails from Tacloban City, Leyte.

He started his career in the Judiciary in 1978 as a technical assistant to then Chief Justice Feliz Makasiar , for whom he worked for seven years. He also served as Regional Trial Court judge of Rizal and Metropolitan Trial Court judge in Pasig, before rising to the appeals court.

Reyes has also been teaching at the College of Business and Economics in the De La Salle University for four decades. He also serves as lecturer at the Philippine Judicial Academy’s Remedial Law department.

Reyes continues to be an active Eucharistic minister of Billa San Miguel Chapel in Mandaluyong City. He has also been serving as Christian Life Program Speaker in courts and government offices.

Former Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV earlier accused Reyes and another CA justice of receiving P50 million over the case involving the preventive suspension by the Office of the Ombudsman of then-Makati Mayor Jejomar Erwin “Junjun” Binay Jr.

Reyes penned the CA ruling that stopped Binay’s suspension by issuing a temporary restraining order and writ of preliminary injunction last year. The SC upheld the appellate court’s TRO in a ruling in November 2015.

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