SC Chief Justice Peralta bids farewell to judiciary ahead of early retirement

Robie de Guzman   •   March 22, 2021   •   500

 

MANILA, Philippines – Supreme Court Chief Justice Diosdado Peralta on Monday bid goodbye to his fellow justices and employees of the judiciary, days ahead of his scheduled retirement on March 27.

During his last flag-raising ceremony as chief magistrate, Peralta enumerated the achievements of the judiciary branch under his helm, which was marked with challenges brought about by the coronavirus pandemic and other issues concerning members of the legal profession.

“Under my helm, the Supreme Court has formulated and approved 18 procedural rules and guidelines meant to improve the administration of justice and address the problem of clogged court dockets,” he said.

The high court restructured and streamlined the plantilla of various offices, divisions, and services of the Court “so as to guarantee the security of tenure for the employees and to improve our processes,” Peralta said.

“We have established the Judiciary Public Assistance Section (JPAS), to promptly receive and act on concerns, issues, suggestions, and other relevant matters including complaints against erring court officials and employees,” he said.

He also organized the Judicial Integrity Board to further prevent and curb corruption in the judiciary.

Peralta will retire from service on March 27, a year ahead of his mandatory retirement at the age of 70. This is after the Supreme Court en banc approved his application for early retirement last January.

He thanked everyone for their support throughout his 34-year career in government service.

“I will forever remember the fond memories I have of working for and with all of you,” he said.

“While I prepare to hang my judicial robe, this is definitely not the end of us seeing each other. Rest assured that I will still make myself available to the Supreme Court if I’m and when the time comes that my assistance is needed,” he added.

Peralta started his public career in 1987 as the Third Assistant City Fiscal of Laoag City then went on to become a regional trial court judge in 1994.

He was named associate justice of the Sandiganbayan in 2002 and became its presiding justice in 2008 before he was appointed to the Supreme Court in 2009.

President Rodrigo Duterte appointed him to Supreme Court’s top post on October 23, 2019.

Restrictions amid the coronavirus pandemic prompted the Supreme Court to conduct a 30-minute hybrid flag-raising ceremony, which was a scale-down from the traditional last flag-raising ceremony given to a retiring chief magistrate.

The Supreme Court said the ceremony was without any arrival honors and attended only by a select few Court employees mostly coming from the Office of the Chief Justice, including the Chief Justice’s immediate family ― his wife Court of Appeals Associate Justice Fernanda Lampas Peralta and children.

Other attendees participated virtually.

There were no photo opportunities as the outgoing chief justice immediately retreated to his office after his speech, the SC Public Information Office said.

 

Palace welcomes SC ruling junking plea to compel Duterte to defend PH territory

Robie de Guzman   •   November 24, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – Malacañang on Wednesday welcomed the decision of the Supreme Court (SC) to dismiss the petition to compel President Rodrigo Duterte to defend the Philippine territory against China’s claims and incursions in the West Philippine Sea.

“We welcome the decision of the Supreme Court dismissing the petition for mandamus filed against President Rodrigo Roa Duterte,” acting presidential spokesperson Karlo Nograles said in a statement.

Nograles was referring to an SC ruling dated June 29 but only uploaded on its website on November 22.

In a unanimous decision, the SC en banc dismissed the petition for mandamus filed by lawyer Romeo Esmero for “utter lack of merit.”

In his petition, Esmero claimed that it is the president’s ministerial duty to defend the national territory, which includes the West Philippine Sea as established by the UN Arbitral Tribunal.

He also asserted that “there is unlawful neglect or inaction by the president in the performance of his constitutional duty resulting to the detriment of ‘paramount public interest involve (sic) the livelihood of all of our poor Filipino fishermen and their families who are living in the coastal areas of the many islands facing the West Philippine Sea.’”

Esmero also suggested suing China before the International Criminal Court “to demand payment and damages for taking the Kalayaan Islands.”

“Our ruling in De Lima v. Duterte is clear: the president is immune from suit during his incumbency, regardless of the nature of the suit filed against him. Petitioner named President Duterte as the sole respondent in this case. For this reason, this suit should be dismissed outright,” the SC said.

The high court also noted that the petition for the issuance of a writ of mandamus “would still not lie in petitioner’s favor.”

A mandamus petition seeks to compel action and performance of a pre-existing duty, a ministerial function on the part of a board, officer or person, provided that the petitioner has a well-defined and clear right warrant the grant thereof.

“Indeed, the president is the guardian of the Philippine archipelago, including all the islands and waters embraced therein and all other territories over which it has sovereignty or jurisdiction. By constitutional fiat and the intrinsic nature of his office, the president is also the sole organ and the authority in the external affairs of the country,” the ruling read.

The SC said that for all the petitioner’s posturing, he failed to point any law that specifically requires the president to go to the UN or the ICJ to sue China for its incursions into the Philippine exclusive economic zone.

“Neither has he shown a clear and unmistakable constitutional or statutory provision which prescribes how the president is to respond to any threat (actual or imminent) from another State to our sovereignty or exercise of our sovereign rights,” the court said.

The SC said that former President Benigno S. Aquino was under no obligation to file a case against China through the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) in 2013.

“Taking China to binding arbitration was risky, as it could potentially damage relations with a major trading partner. On July 12, 2016, the arbitral tribunal issued an award overwhelmingly in favor of claims by the Philippines and ultimately bringing some clarity to the overlapping claims in the area,” the court noted.

The SC said that if President Duterte now sees fit to take a different approach with China despite said ruling, “this does not by itself mean that he has, as petitioner suggests, unlawfully abdicated his duty to protect and defend our national territory, correctible with the issuance by this Court of the extraordinary writ of mandamus.”

“Being the Head of State, he is free to use his own discretion in this matter, accountable only to his country in his political character and to his own conscience,” the SC added.

The 9-page ruling was penned by Associate Justice Rodil Zalameda. All 13 other justices concurred with the decision.

With this ruling, Malacañang said that the “executive power, indeed, rests on the President, including the peaceful and stable conduct of foreign affairs. Matters within the President’s discretion cannot be compelled by mandamus.”

The Palace also maintained that the president is the chief architect of foreign policy and this is affirmed by the latest decision of the High Court.

“Having said this, the president has firmly kept his position to continue the peaceful resolution of disputes,” Malacañang said.

 

Supreme Court designates Raul Villanueva as Court admin office OIC

Robie de Guzman   •   November 17, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – The Supreme Court on Wednesday appointed Deputy Court Administrator Raul Villanueva as officer-in-charge of the Office of the Court Administrator.

Villanueva will take the post a Jose Midas Marquez who was appointed as Associate Justice.

“In view of the appointment of former Court Administrator, the Hon. Jose Midas Marquez, as Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, in the interest of public service, and pending the appointment of a regular Court Administrator, Deputy Court Administrator Raul Villanueva is hereby designated as Officer-in-charge in the Office of the Court Administrator,” the high court said in a memorandum order.

The order states that as the OIC of the Office of the Court Administrator, Villanueva “shall exercise the functions and perform the duties as the head of office” effective upon the issuance of the memorandum order and until the appointment of the regular Court Administrator.

Marquez took his oath as associate justice of the Supreme Court before Chief Justice Alexander Gesmundo on Tuesday.

Duterte appoints Midas Marquez as Supreme Court associate justice

Robie de Guzman   •   November 16, 2021

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte has named Court Administrator Jose Midas Marquez as associate justice of the Supreme Court (SC), Malacañang said Tuesday.

This was first confirmed by Office of Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea and later announced by Presidential Spokesperson Karlo Nograles.

Marquez will replace Justice Edgardo delos Santos who opted for an early retirement in June.

Marquez is currently serving as SC Court administrator. He also served as SC spokesperson, Public Information Office chief and chief of staff of the Office of the Chief Justice.

Marquez has made several attempts in previous years to become an SC justice.

Back in 2018, he applied for the post vacated by then Justice Samuel Martires but Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte opposed his bid over his alleged attempt to curry her favor by trying to have a disbarment case against her withdrawn.

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