President Rodrigo Duterte has appointed Supreme Court Associate Justice Lucas Bersamin as the next Chief Justice and Court of Appeals Rosmari Carandang as SC associate justice, Malacañang announced Wednesday.
READ: Justices want ‘insider’ to be new chief; Bersamin leads nominees with 10 votes
“The Palace announces the appointments of Mr. Lucas P. Bersamin and Ms. Rosmari D. Carandang as Chief Justice and Associate Justice, respectively, at the Supreme Court,” Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo said in a statement.
Panelo said Bersamin is the most senior justice in the Supreme Court “in terms of services rendered under the Judicial Branch in various capacities.”
“He served nearly 17 years as the Presiding Judge of the Quezon City Regional Trial Court, over six years as Associate Justice at the Court of Appeals, and close to 10 years as the 163rd magistrate of the Supreme Court,” Panelo added.
Bersamin, who served as an associate justice for nine years at the Supreme Court, is the third most senior in the tribunal after Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio and Associate Justice Diosdado Peralta.
Bersamin will render 10 months in service as the country’s top magistrate as he will retire on Oct. 29.
The 69-year-old Bersamin, who already took his oath, replaces Teresita Leonardo-de Castro who previously retired from government service in October after serving as top magistrate for over a month following the dismissal of Maria Lourdes Sereno.
As an associate justice of the Supreme Court, Bersamin wrote the decision acquitting former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo of plunder, voted to acquit former Senator Jinggoy Estrada of plunder, and favored a hero’s burial of former President Ferdinand Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani.
He also favored the Duterte administration’s actions including the declaration of martial law in Mindanao, the arrest of opposition Senator Leila de Lima, and the dismissal of Sereno.
The 66-year-old Carandang, who has been an associate justice of the appellate court since 2003, is the second unmarried female to be appointed to the Supreme Court. In her interview with the Judicial and Bar Council in September, Carandang said staying single allows her to focus in her duties in the judiciary.
She takes the post vacated by De Castro when she was named chief justice earlier this year.
The Palace expressed confidence over the two newly-appointed magistrates.
“Both Justices belong to what President Rodrigo Duterte calls ‘the best and the brightest’ as Chief Justice Bersamin placed 9th in the 1973 Bar Examinations while Associate Justice Carandang also claimed the same spot in the 1975 Bar Examinations,” he said.
“We are confident that CJ Bersamin and AJ Carandang will continue to uphold judicial excellence, assert its independence, and stand firm against erring members of the bench, the bar, and court personnel as they lead the third branch of the government, together with the rest of the Supreme Court Justices, in remaining steadfast in its role as the guardian of the rule of law,” he added.
Bersamin was handpicked from a shortlist of five SC justices that included Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio and Associate Justices Diosdado Peralta, Estela Perlas-Bernabe and Andres Reyes Jr.
He took his oath of office before Carpio, who served as acting chief justice during the vacancy in the top judicial post.
Duterte justified his appointment of Bersamin based on his seniority.
While Carpio is the most senior among the SC justices, having been appointed in 2001, Bersamin is the most senior in the judiciary among the nominees as he rose from ranks in his 32-year career in the judiciary.
Bersamin will lead the judiciary until Oct. 18, 2019, when he reaches his compulsory retirement age of 70.
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra, an ex-officio member of the Judicial and Bar Council, confirmed the appointments of Bersamin and Carandang as chief justice and SC associate justice, respectively.
Bersamin’s promotion as top magistrate resulted in a vacancy for the post of associate justice in the 15-member bench.
On Jan. 5, 2019, there will be another vacancy with the mandatory retirement of Associate Justice Noel G. Tijam.
Chief Justice Bersamin, who finished his law degree from the University of the East, was ninth placer in the 1973 bar examinations.
In 1986, he was appointed regional trial court judge for Quezon City. In 2003, he was promoted as CA associate justice.
On April 2, 2009, then President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, now Speaker of the House of Representatives, promoted Bersamin to the post of SC associate justice.
Carandang, on the other hand, was a judge of the Manila City RTC before she was promoted as CA associate justice.
She finished her law degree from the University of the Philippines and placed ninth in the 1975 bar examinations.
Before her promotion to the SC, Carandang chaired the CA’s third division.
Carandang was the seventh appointee of President Duterte to the SC.
The first six appointees were Associate Justices Samuel Martires (who retired to assume the post of Ombudsman), Noel G. Tijam, Andres B. Reyes Jr., Alexander G. Gesmundo, Jose C. Reyes Jr., and Ramon Paul L. Hernando.
This is on top of the President’s appointment of De Castro and Bersamin as chief justice.
In his first media briefing, Bersamin vowed to uphold judicial independence in his one year as chief justice.
Senate President Vicente Sotto III yesterday lauded the appointment of Bersamin, who had worked with him in 2008 when he still headed the Dangerous Drugs Board.
Senator Grace Poe said she sees Bersamin as fair and objective, having handled many controversial cases before joining the Supreme Court.
In the House, lawmakers supported Bersamin’s appointment as well.
Former Speaker and Quezon City Rep. Feliciano Belmonte, Jr. said he was proud that Bersamin had honed his judicial skills as a regional trial court judge in Quezon City.
Parañaque City Rep. Gus Tambunting also cheered Bersamin’s appointment.
“He is very capable and competent to head the Judiciary with more than three decades of service and most senior among his colleagues in terms of court experience,” Tambunting said. With Macon Ramos-Araneta and Maricel V. CruzREAD: ‘Carpio refused offer to be CJ’
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