The early retirement of Chief Justice Diosdado M. Peralta

WHAT MATTERS MOST - Atty. Josephus Jimenez (The Freeman) - March 11, 2021 - 12:00am

This writer is blessed with the distinct privilege of living in a village where two famous neighbors reside: two Chief Justices of the Supreme Court -- incumbent Chief Justice Diosdado Madarang Peralta, from Ilocos Norte and graduate of UST Faculty of Civil Law, and retired Chief Justice and now GSIS chairman Lucas Purruganan Bersamin of Abra and graduate of UE College of Law.

I am also honored to have been their fellow law professor in both UST and UE. They are both experts in Criminal Law and Procedures, while I focus on Labor Law and Legal Ethics. They are both my friends and Chief Luke is my compadre as I stood as wedding sponsor to his daughter, Pia, who is now RTC judge of Las Piñas. Chief Luke and I go to church in the same parish and I often give him the Holy Eucharist as a Lay Minister.

Chief Justices Peralta and Bersamin are inseparable. They often vote together in the same side of most of the cases where they were sitting in the same division of the High Court or when both were participating in the deliberations of landmark cases in the Supreme Court en banc. Their careers were almost parallel aside from being both experienced judges and hardworking professors of law. Both of them were appointed by President GMA.

Chief Justice Dado Peralta, the 26th Chief Justice of the land, was born on March 27, 1952. Based on the compulsory retirement age of 70, he would still stay as chief of the highest court of the land and the number one magistrate in the country until March 27, 2022. But he has decided to retire one year ahead and that is by the 21st of the current month. Some would opine that CJ Dado is giving way for the senior associate Justice Estela Perlas-Bernabe (if ever the seniority tradition will be followed and she is chosen by President Duterte to succeed him as chief magistrate) to have a longer tenure since she, too, is scheduled to compulsorily retire in May 2022. There are also speculations that Chief Dado is fading away to usher the possible appointment to the Supreme Court of his wife, incumbent Court of Appeals Associate Fernanda Lampas-Peralta.

Let us just give Chief Dado all the presumptions of positive thoughts. Most reasonably, he just wants to rest after so many decades of serving the judiciary, the country and the people. He may want to write his memoirs and go back to the rewarding task of teaching. Or, he might have been assured by the president of an appointment as ambassador extraordinary plenipotentiary as Philippines' permanent representative to the United Nations just as our very own Cebuano brother, former chief justice Hilario Gilbolingo Davide Jr., was named to that post by the president. Chief Justice Dado may want to go home to Ilocos Norte and savor the sweet smell of Ilocano cigar, while drinking native wine on the beautiful beaches of Pagudpud, under the shadows of windmills, which the scions of his illustrious apo lakay, Manong Ferdie Marcos, erected as symbol of the Ilocano spirit of grit and guts.

Chief Dado obtained his bachelor’s degree in 1974 from Letran, and finished his law in 1979 in UST. In 1994, while teaching law in UST (where we met), he was appointed RTC judge of Quezon City. His sala was designated as the special court for heinous crimes and later for drug cases. He has convicted many high-profile criminals and drug lords. GMA named him as associate justice of the Sandiganbayan in 2002, and in 2008 designated him as presiding justice there. In 2009, he was named as the 162nd associate justice of the Supreme Court by GMA again. And, being deserving as the next most senior to his friend, Luke Bersamin, Justice Peralta reached the apex of the legal career when President Duterte appointed him as the 26th Chief Justice on October 23, 2019.

Chief Dado is a very simple man, frugal and very hardworking like a true Ilocano. He drives his car and goes to the market in BF Homes where we reside. He talks to drivers and walks with no shade of arrogance. He is a man I truly admire: competent, conscientious and with impeccable character. May the Lord give us more magistrates like Dado, Luke, and Jun Davide. They are rare diamonds in a world full of mud, and sweet-smelling orchids inside “a catacomb of  stench and decay.”

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