President Rodrigo Duterte has appointed Court of Appeals Associate Justice Ramon Paul Hernando as a member of the 15-member Supreme Court.
At the same time, the Judicial and Bar Council announced that Associate Justice Lucas Bersamin has formally accepted his automatic nomination for post of chief justice, vacated when Chief Justice Teresita Leonardo-de Castro retired on Wednesday.
Duterte promoted Hernando, a fellow graduate of the San Beda law school, as an associate justice of the Court, which had a vacancy following the appointment of Associate Justice Samuel Martires as Ombudsman.
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra, an ex-officio member of the Judicial and Bar Council, confirmed Hernando’s appointment.
Hernando is known in the appellate court for his zero backlog, with 417 cases disposed in 2013 and 370 in 2012. In his first four years, Hernando was able to dispose of 86.49 percent of the cases he handled.
The 52-year-old magistrate will serve in the Supreme Court for about 18 years before he reaches the mandatory retirement age of 70.
Hernando was a state prosecutor with the Justice Department for five years before being appointed judge of Quezon City RTC Branch 93. He stayed there for more than three years and then became a judge at a provincial court. He was judge at the RTC in San Pablo, Laguna, for almost three years.
Hernando also teaches law at the San Beda College law school, Ateneo Law School and University of Santo Tomas Law and was a three-time Bar examiner in commercial law.
He was handpicked by Duterte from a shortlist of nine nominees.
Hernando is the sixth associate justice appointed by Duterte so far to the Supreme Court.
Guevarra, ex-officio member of the JBC, said the council received Bersamin’s formal acceptance of his automatic nomination for the chief justice post earlier this week.
Before his appointment as SC member in April 2009, Bersamin served as associate justice of the Court of Appeals and a Quezon City regional trial court judge. He was the recipient of numerous judicial excellence awards.
The five most senior justices of Supreme Court are automatically nominated for the chief justice vacancy under the rules of JBC, the seven-member panel tasked to screen nominees for judicial posts.
Besides Bersamin, the four other most senior SC justices are acting Chief Justice Antonio Carpio and Associate Justices Diosdado Peralta, Mariano del Castillo and Estela Perlas-Bernabe.
A court insider revealed that Carpio and Peralta will also vie for the chief justice post, but have not formally submitted their acceptance of their automatic nomination to the JBC.
The nominees are expected to submit their conforme to the JBC before Oct.15, the deadline for submission of nominations and applications.
De Castro retired from the judiciary Wednesday after serving as chief justice for 44 days following the ouster last June of Maria Lourdes Sereno, whose appointment as chief justice had been nullified through quo warranto proceedings.
Carpio declined his nomination for the chief justice post in June, saying he did not want to benefit from the ouster of Sereno, which he opposed.
President Duterte said his appointment of De Castro was based on seniority and meritocracy, and that Carpio was not considered since “he stated publicly that he’s not going to accept.”
Last week, Carpio said that “there is no longer delicadeza issue or legal reason to decline” his nomination for chief justice.
Carpio, the most senior magistrate by date of appointment to the Court was bypassed for the chief justice post twice in 2010 and 2012, and will retire from the judiciary in October next year. If appointed chief justice, he will have one year in the top judicial post.
With the seniority rule restored in judicial appointments, the sources said they expect President Duterte to choose the next chief justice from among the senior justices.
The Constitution requires the chief justice, just like the associate justices, to be a natural-born citizen, at least 40 years old, with experience as judge or in private law practice for at least 15 years and a person with proven competence, integrity, probity and independence.
Duterte is expected to appoint over 10 members of the High Court during his six-year term. He already appointed five justices so far—now Ombudsman Samuel Martires, Noel Tijam, Andres Reyes Jr., Alexander Gesmundo and Jose Reyes Jr.
The President is set to appoint two more justices for the vacancies left by the appointment of Martires and the promotion of De Castro, and possibly another one after appointing the chief justice.
The Palace on Wednesday also announced the appointment of Judges Evalyn Arellano-Morales and Loida Posadas-Kahulugan as associate justices in the Court of Appeals.
Duterte said he will still have to search “far and wide” to find a “good” chief justice among the several applicants following the retirement of De Castro.
“I’m still toying with so many names. If there is a vacancy, we’ll fill it up with good men and there are few good men in this planet. We’ll have to search them far and wide,” he told Palace reporters in a press interview on Tuesday evening.
He said he will decide whether to appoint Carpio to the post.
In an advisory, the JBC listed the aspirants and set their public interviews on Oct. 18.
The applicants for the post of associate justice in the high court are Court of Appeals Associate Justices Japar Dimaampao, Ramon Garcia, Manuel Barrios, Apolinario Bruselas, Rosmari Carandang, Edgardo delos Santos, Hernando, Amy Lazaro-Javier, Oscar Badelles, and Stephen Cruz; Sandiganbayan Justice Alex Quiroz; former Ateneo law dean Cesar Villanueva; and De La Salle University law vice dean Rita Linda Jimeno.
Only Jimeno and Quiroz will face the JBC for the public interviews since the other 11 aspirants have already been interviewed when they applied earlier for another vacancy in the high court.
READ: 13 contenders vying for SC justice postLOOK: Bowing out
COMMENT DISCLAIMER: Reader comments posted on this Web site are not in any way endorsed by Manila Standard. Comments are views by manilastandard.net readers who exercise their right to free expression and they do not necessarily represent or reflect the position or viewpoint of manilastandard.net. While reserving this publication’s right to delete comments that are deemed offensive, indecent or inconsistent with Manila Standard editorial standards, Manila Standard may not be held liable for any false information posted by readers in this comments section.