GUIDED by the seniority rule, President Rodrigo Duterte has appointed Associate Justice Lucas Bersamin as the country’s new Chief Justice.
Bersamin, 69, replaced Teresita Leonardo-De Castro, who retired in October after serving as chief justice for only 41 days, the shortest term in the 117-year history of the Supreme Court.
He will serve as top magistrate for less than a year or until he reaches the mandatory retirement age of 70 on October 18 next year.
Duterte said on Tuesday night that seniority was a factor in his decision to pick the new chief justice. The President gave the same reason when he appointed De Castro in August as she was the most senior among the three nominees.
With 32 years of service, Bersamin is currently the most senior SC Justice in the Judiciary. At the high court, he is the third most senior magistrate but the most senior justice in terms of service in courts.
Bersamin beat out Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio and Associate Justices Diosdado Peralta, Estela Perlas-Bernabe and Andres Reyes Jr. for the post.
A native of Abra province, Bersamin joined the judiciary in November 1986 when he was appointed as Quezon City trial court judge. He was promoted to the Court of Appeals in March 2003 prior to his appointment to the SC in April 2009.
Bersamin earned his law degree from the University of the East in 1973 and placed ninth in the Bar Examinations of the same year.
Bersamin, an appointee of former President and now Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, voted in favor of the burial of the late former President Ferdinand Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani and the petition that sought to expel Maria Lourdes Sereno as chief justice over an alleged failure to file some mandatory asset declarations.
He wrote the SC decision that acquitted Arroyo of plunder and the one that granted bail to former Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, who is charged with plunder over the pork barrel scam, on humanitarian grounds.
The new chief justice also backed the continued detention of Senator Leila De Lima over drug charges and Duterte’s martial law declaration in Mindanao and its year-long extension.
Bersamin was presiding judge of the Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 96 in 1986, and was a Court of Appeals associate justice prior to being appointed to the high court by Arroyo.
President Duterte has also appointed Court of Appeals Associate Justice Rosmari Carandang as the 181st Justice of the Supreme Court.
Carandang is the current chairperson of the Appellate Court’s Third Division and the third most senior associate justice of the CA.
A native of Batangas, she was born on Jan. 9, 1952. She has four more years to serve as Supreme Court magistrate before she retires at the mandatory age of 70.
She graduated from the University of the Philippines College of Law and placed 9th in the 1975 Bar examination.
She is the 7th appointee of President Duterte to the Supreme Court. His first appointee was fellow Bedan Samuel Martires whom he later appointed as Ombudsman.
Duterte’s other appointees are Associate Justices Noel Tijam, Andres Reyes Jr., Alexander Gesmundo, Jose Reyes Jr. and Ramon Paul Hernando. All of President Duterte’s appointments are from the judiciary. Martires and Gesmundo were justices of the Sandiganbayan while the others are from the Court of Appeals.
President Duterte has also appointed two new commissioners to the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos (NCMF).
Duterte signed Monday the appointment papers of Samad Pangandaman and Abubakar Mangelen as NCMF commissioners. Copies of the papers were released to the media yesterday.
Pangandaman and Mangelen will both serve for four years.
The NCMF has nine commissioners including the Secretary, who represents the Commission at cabinet-level meetings with the President.
The Commission will cover both local and national concerns of Muslim Filipinos, including the implementation of economic, educational, cultural, and infrastructure programs for Muslim Filipino communities.
It is currently headed by Secretary Saidamen Pangarungan.