"Bersamin and Locsin face challenging times."
Congratulations to Lucas Bersamin and Teodoro Locsin Jr.
Bersamin said he does not personally know appointing power President Rodrigo Duterte and was surprised by his elevation as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. In his first interview with media, Bersamin pledged that the judiciary would remain independent.
Locsin, on the other hand, easily hurdled the bicameral Commission on Appointments. Prior to his appointment as Secretary of Foreign Affairs, Locsin was our ambassador to the United Nations in New York. He replaced Alan Peter Cayetano who resigned as SFA to seek a seat at the House of Representatives with an eye on the speakership.
Locsin’s appointment as the country’s top diplomat is a welcome change after Cayetano and after Perfecto Yasay, who was removed because of his questionable citizenship. Yasay lived as a resident in the United States and did not disclose that he had acquired American citizenship. Exposed for his duplicity, the CA rejected his nomination.
As a speech writer for Philippine presidents, Locsin is a wide reader and his world view will surely serve him in good stead. This skill was honed in his stint at the United Nations despite the fact that he served only for a short term. President Duterte apparently knew what he needed and wanted—a well-versed foreign secretary who would more than mouth his stand on international issues.
This could have been the reason Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio didn’t make it as chief magistrate. Carpio’s and Duterte’s position on the South China Sea issue are on opposite poles. Carpio who was designated acting chief justice after the retirement of CJ Teresita Leonardo de Castro was consistent in his view that the government must protect its sovereignty in the West Philippine Sea. He felt that the President was too soft on his Chinese friends. But then, who can argue against a P95-billion loan that China has signed with the Philippines to fund the country’s infrastructure projects such as new elevated roads, and bridges to solve Metro Manila’s monstrous traffic problem. For sure Filipinos worry more about the traffic trap than the debt trap some sectors are concern about.
Bersamin’s pledge of judicial independence augurs a refreshing wind of change coming after chief magistrates Renato Corona, Maria Lourdes Sereno and Teresita de Castro. Corona was ousted in a Senate impeachment trial while Sereno was removed in a quo warranto proceeding filed by Solicitor General Jose Calida. De Castro who replaced Sereno, served for only three months as she reached retirement age.
Bersamin will also retire in October 2019. By then, Duterte would already have someone in mind not to mention that he would have stacked the Supreme Court with more associate justices nominated by him.
Bersamin will face several key issues in his court such as the extension of martial law in some parts of the country. Imposed in Mindanao because of terrorist threats marked by the siege of Marawi, there are concerns of a creeping martial law in the entire country being done on a piecemeal basis.
President Duterte has allayed the people’s concern saying he is giving the military a wider role in running the country because of corruption in government agencies such as the Bureau of Customs and the lawless violence in the run-up to the mid-term election in May next year. Alarming though is the President’s plan to form the Davao Death Squad to fight the communist New People’s Army. The DDS became notorious for alleged extrajudicial killings during Digong’s long rule as Davao City mayor.
Also on the Bersamin court will be the issue of Charter change and the proposal to switch to a federalist form of government.
Other developments in the Duterte administration was the resignation of Jesus Dureza as head of the Office of the President on the Peace Process. Dureza quit on the principle of command responsibility when two of his key officials were dismissed by Duterte for alleged corruption.
The President also fired Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council Secretary-General Falconi Millar for alleged anomalies in the agency.