Newly appointed Chief Justice Diosdado Peralta (left) shares a light moment with acting chief Antonio Carpio, who is set to retire on Oct. 26, during the flag-raising ceremony at the Supreme Court on Monday.
Peralta is new chief justice
Robertzon Ramirez, Christina Mendez, Delon Porcalla, Paolo Romero (The Philippine Star) - October 24, 2019 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines – President Duterte has appointed Diosdado Peralta as the new chief justice, besting two other associate justices shortlisted for the Supreme Court vacancy following the retirement of Lucas Bersamin, Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea announced yesterday.

Medialdea signed the order, which took effect Tuesday, on orders of Duterte, who returned from Japan in the evening of the same day after cutting short his visit to Tokyo for the enthronement of Japanese Emperor Naruhito at the Imperial Palace.

The 67-year-old Peralta was chosen over his fellow Associate Justices Estella Perlas-Bernabe and Andres Reyes Jr., who were in the shortlist submitted to the President by the Judicial and Bar Council.

“We are certain that with Chief Justice Peralta at the helm of the Supreme Court, the judiciary will continue to be well-managed as it strives to uphold the principles of judicial excellence, integrity and independence,” presidential spokesman and chief legal counsel Salvador Panelo said in a statement from Tokyo.

It was the third time for Peralta to get nominated to the top SC post. The first was in 2018 while justices were deliberating on the fate of Maria Lourdes Sereno, who was eventually ousted based on a quo warranto case filed by the Office of the Solicitor General. Peralta voted along with seven other justices to unseat Sereno as chief magistrate for failing to file some of her statements of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN).

Peralta, a former Manila prosecutor and Quezon City judge, was also among the aspirants for the top SC post last year, but it was Teresita Leonardo de Castro who eventually bagged the position. She occupied the position for a brief period and was succeeded by Bersamin.

“With two and a half decades of judicial service to his credit, Chief Justice Peralta is the most senior in terms of the number of years of service in the judiciary,” SC spokesman Brian Hosaka told reporters. Peralta is the 26th chief justice.

He will reach the mandatory retirement age of 70 on March 27, 2022.

Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, acting chief justice, received Peralta’s appointment letter at around 2:40 p.m. yesterday. Carpio retires on Oct. 26.

Shortly after the announcement of Peralta’s appointment, SC personnel unfurled a tarpaulin congratulating the new chief justice.

No bar topnotcher

During the JBC interview, an emotional Peralta told the council that he deserved to be the next chief justice even if he was not a Bar topnotcher or an honor student in his law studies.

“If I remember what I have experienced since I started working, mahirap eh (it was hard). I think I deserve to be chief justice because I worked very hard all these years,” Peralta told the council.

“I think they are more than enough to compensate with what they say I do not deserve because I’m not a topnotcher or I’m not an honor student. I hope you have to take those into consideration that there is hope for an individual like me,” he added.

All seven JBC members voted for Peralta’s appointment.

Peralta, former presiding justice of the Sandiganbayan and member of the special division that convicted ousted president Joseph Estrada of plunder in 2007, was appointed to the SC in January 2009 as the 162nd associate justice.

 A Quezon City regional trial court judge from 1994 to 2002, Peralta was dubbed the “hanging judge” because he had sentenced to death more than 40 people when the death penalty was still in effect.

Before his chief justice appointment, Peralta chaired the SC Third Division and the Committee on the Revision of the Rules of Court, which Bersamin dubbed as the “mother of all committees.”

He has been the chairman of the House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal (HRET) since August 2018. He had also served as chairman of both the 2014 Bar examination and the Special Shari’ah Bar examination.

Peralta was born in Laoag City, Ilocos Norte. He started his career in government service in 1987 when he was appointed third assistant city fiscal of Laoag City and as Manila prosecutor in 1988.

Peralta became the assistant chief of the Investigation Division of the Office of the City Prosecutor in 1994 in Manila. He joined the judiciary in September 1994 as presiding judge of Branch 95 of the Regional Trial Court (RTC) in Quezon City.

He was promoted to the Sandiganbayan in 2002 and became its presiding justice in 2008.

Peralta penned the ruling in June this year which allowed the retroactive application of the controversial Republic Act 10592, or the expanded Good Conduct Time Allowance (GCTA) law.

He also voted in favor of the ouster of former chief justice Sereno and testified against her during the House of Representatives investigation on the impeachment complaint filed against her.

Peralta is also one of the justices who voted on the legality of the arrest of opposition Sen. Leila de Lima, the declaration and extension of martial law in Mindanao and the closure of Boracay.

He also penned the ruling declaring as legal a hero’s burial for late dictator Ferdinand Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani.

Landmark decisions

In his statement, Panelo attributed Peralta’s appointment to his track record of handing “many landmark decisions that reverberate to this time, which include the imposition of the death penalty on a policeman who used his service firearm to shoot an 11-year-old boy while flying his kite on a rooftop in People vs. Fallorina.”

Peralta was also credited for the first conviction for plunder of a cashier of the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) in People vs. Manalili; and the first and only conviction of Qualified Bribery under Article 211-A of the Revised Penal Code, as amended, involving a substantial number of police officers in the case of suspected foreign drug traffickers.

Peralta also convicted the most number of accused involved in big time drug cases and other serious crimes, Panelo said.

The Palace also noted that the Supreme Court and the Integrated Bar of the Philippines conferred the Special Centennial Awards in the Field of Criminal Law on Peralta for his “credible and no-nonsense management and expeditious disposal of heinous crimes and drug cases… [which have] visibly strengthened the Philippine Criminal Justice System and helped bolster and maintain respect, trust and confidence in our criminal courts.”

Appointment welcomed

Sen. Panfilo Lacson welcomed Peralta’s appointment, saying he “is known for his integrity and competence who enjoys the respect of his peers and other inside and outside the legal circle.”

He said when Peraltawas Quezon City RTC judge, he “convicted almost if not all the kidnap-for-ransom suspects that I apprehended when I was still in the Philippine National Police.”

“It’s a well-deserved promotion for Justice Dado,” Deputy Speaker Mikee Romero said.

“President Duterte deserves praise for making Lady Justice smile when he mustered the highest sense of objectivity and used his own insightful judgment in all three chief justice appointments he has made as Chief Executive of this nation,” he added.

The president of the Party-list Coalition Foundation Inc. called Peralta a “legal intellectual who will contribute immensely in the effective administration of the judiciary.”

For his part, Rep. Ronnie Ong of Ang Probinsiyano party-list also lauded the appointment.

“His long experience as a member of the high tribunal and his deep knowledge of the law make him the best choice as the country’s chief magistrate. I hope and pray that we all support him and let us all pray for his success,” he said.

“He will serve as a beacon of light in maintaining the supremacy of the Constitution. His loyalty to the Constitution will guide the nation’s leaders and the people in their quest for a better justice system,” House Majority Leader Martin Romualdez said.

“Our expectation is he will be able to institute reforms in the administration of justice given the over two years he will lead the judiciary,” Ako Bicol party-list Rep. Alfredo Garbin Jr. said.

 

DIOSDADO PERALTA
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