New Chief Justice Bersamin ‘doesn’t owe’ Duterte for post

Newly appointed Supreme Court Chief Justice Lucas Bersamin speaks to the press on Wednesday, Nov. 28. GMA NEWS

MANILA – President Rodrigo Duterte has selected Supreme Court Associate Justice Lucas Bersamin, who has voted in favor of matters being pushed by the current administration, as the new chief justice.

Department of Justice secretary Menardo Guevarra, a Judicial and Bar Council member, confirmed Bersamin’s appointment as the Supreme Court’s 25th top magistrate.

The office of Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea released the appointment papers of Bersamin, Guevarra said in a statement released Wednesday.

Duterte chose Bersamin as replacement of the retired justice Teresita Leonardo-de Castro over other candidates Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio Jr. and associate justices Diosdado Peralta, Estela Perlas-Bernabe and Andres Reyes Jr.

The 69-year-old native of Abra province will lead the judiciary for less than a year – he will reach the mandatory retirement age of 70 years old on Oct. 18 next year.

While currently the third most senior Supreme Court justice, Bersamin was the most senior justice in terms of service in courts, having been with the judiciary for the past 32 years.

After taking his oath before Carpio, Bersamin told dzMM radio he will enforce discipline among judges and rank-and-file officials.

“I never dreamed I would become a chief justice but I am ready to assume the responsibility,” Bersamin said. “I hope the President pardons me if I don’t thank him. I don’t feel I owe him for this position.”

“I will try to boost the judiciary’s morale diminished by confusion in recent events,” the new chief justice added. “Supreme Court has never tolerated corruption in our decisions.”

Bersamin entered the judiciary in November 1986 as a Quezon City trial court judge.

He was promoted to the Court of Appeals in March 2003 before then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo appointed him as Supreme Court justice in April 2009.

Bersamin voted in favor of the burial of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani and the ouster of then Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno.

Moreover, he voted in favor of the continued detention of Sen. Leila de Lima for illegal drug charges, as well as the constitutionality of Duterte’s martial law declaration in Mindanao and its extension.

Bersamin was the ponente of the Supreme Court verdict that acquitted Arroyo of plunder and that granted bail on humanitarian grounds to former Senate president Juan Ponce Enrile for his graft case.

Meanwhile Duterte appointed Court of Appeals Associate Justice Rosmari Carandang as a new Supreme Court justice to fill in the slot left vacant by de Castro’s retirement.

Carandang had been with the appellate court for 15 years, and a trial court judge in Manila before that. The 66-year-old justice will retire in January 2022./PN

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