In last flag ceremony, Chief Justice Peralta bids good bye after 34 years in Judiciary

Kristine Joy Patag (Philstar.com) - March 22, 2021 - 11:08am

MANILA, Philippines — Chief Justice Diosdado Peralta is set to officially hang his judicial robes on Friday, at a time when lawyers are pinning their hopes for protection against continued attacks to the Supreme Court.

Addressing his colleagues for the last time on Monday morning, Peralta said he is filled with gratitude, with a mix of melancholy, noting that it has been a year since they observed the traditional flag raising ceremony with the rest of the SC employees.

“In a few days, I will be retiring from the Supreme Court after working for the past half a century, 34 years of which were spent serving the Judiciary while I look forward to a slower pace of life with my family… I cannot help but feel a tinge of sadness as I will be leaving the realm of public service and my beloved Supreme Court which has been my second home for the past 12 years,” he said.

Peralta admitted that the past year has been difficult due to the public health crisis, as the SC crafted policies to protect the well-being of its officers and employees but court users as well.

“To this end, I can say with confidence that we, the members and officials of the Supreme Court, have done everything within our authority to address all judicial concerns and protect everyone's well being, to the best of our abilities. We have proven that with our determination and willingness to adopt innovations, this pandemic is not and will never be an obstacle in the fulfillment of our own duties as public servants,” he said.

Despite the obstacles the Judiciary faced due to the pandemic, Peralta said he ticked off a majority of the items on the 10-point agenda he bared in 2019. He shared that the SC has approved 18 procedure rules and guidelines for the courts, offices have also been restructured for the tenure of employees, and Judiciary public assistance was established among others.

READ: Chief Justice Peralta to retire a year early; Duterte to name new top judge early 2021

Peralta’s last flag ceremony was a much quieter one as COVID-19 threat and strict health protocols reduced the number of attendees to few employees. Only two of Peralta’s colleagues at the Bench were able to attend the ceremonies at the SC compound. They are Associate Justices Rosmari Carandang and Henri Jean Paul Inting. The rest of the magistrates joined the ceremonies virtually.

‘The most approachable chief justice’

In his last flag ceremony, Peralta also received a Certificate of Appreciation from the SC Program on Awards and Incentives for Service Excellence (PRAISE) Committee.

The SC thanked Peralta for his “stellar” leadership of the Judiciary for a year and five months, “marked by numerous milestones,” such as passage of significant rules of court and digitization of court processes amid pandemic. 

The committee also recognized Peralta’s contributions to the Philippine jurisprudence through landmark ponencias such as the declaration of the prohibition on plea bargaining in drug-related cases in Estipona vs Lobrigo in 2017, and recognition of divorce obtained by a Filipino from a foreign spouse in in a 2018 ruling..

Under Peralta’s court, many employees were also regularized, they said. The SC PRAISE committee also said Peralta has also been called as the most “approachable chief justice, willing to willing to listen with an open mind to the views of his colleagues and that of the magistrates, officials and employees of the entire Judiciary and quickly and tirelessly working to address their concern.”

Attack on lawyers

Peralta is ending his stint as head of Judiciary — a year of which was during a pandemic — as lawyers knock on the gates of the SC to seek protection from continuing attacks on their ranks.

At least 61 of lawyers were killed since the start of President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration, according to the Free Legal Assistance Group. The number of slain lawyers in the last five years alone is higher than the last six administration combined.

But Peralta has not addressed this issue in his speech in his last flag ceremony with the Judiciary.

In a chance interview last Friday, Peralta said the SC is being careful in flexing its rare rule-making powers. He also stressed that there is a process to this, which includes consultations from several government agencies.

But the chief justice said the lawyers’ security concerns and the growing calls for review into issuances of “deadly search warrants” will be on the table on Tuesday, his last en banc session.

Peralta is stepping down as chief justice on Marcch 27, a year ahead of the mandatory age of retirement, but he has yet to disclose the reason behind this. The three vying for the chief justice seat faced the Judicial and Bar Council on March 12. 

READ: The three in the running to be Philippines' next top judge

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