Duterte denies De Castro appointment her ‘reward’ for Sereno ouster

Pia Ranada
President Rodrigo Duterte stresses that he based Chief Justice Teresita de Castro's appointment on seniority and merit

CHOOSING DE CASTRO. President Rodrigo Duterte explains his choice of new chief justice. Malacañang file photo

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte said there is nothing but malice in the claim of lawmakers like Magdalo Representative Gary Alejano that Teresita de Castro’s appointment as chief justice was her “reward” for ousting Maria Lourdes Sereno.

“I have yet to hear those guys state something without malice. They always say the worst. People like them judge best when they condemn and they have nothing to show for their time there except to blabber their mouth,” said Duterte on Monday, August 27, in an interview with reporters.

Duterte was asked if he were bothered that De Castro would only sit as Chief Justice for less than two months. (READ: The test of legacy for Chief Justice De Castro)

“Train ‘yan (It’s like a train). Kung sino ‘yung unang pumasok, siya ‘yung unang ma-promote (The first to enter will be the first to get promoted) and that would go for everybody,” said Duterte in response.

He stressed that he makes appointments in the Supreme Court (SC) – and in the military and civil service – based on seniority and merit. 

“Lahat, sa military, ganoon. Walang singitan. In the civil service, no political colors included, bawal ‘yan (For all, in the military, it’s like that. No one cuts in line. In the civil service, no political colors included, that’s not allowed). So merit system,” said the President.

Duterte also denied handing out appointments to justices based on personal connections, claiming the sitting High Court magistrates are “strangers” to him. 

“I am not familiar with any of them actually. Wala akong kilalang justice na personal (I don’t know any justice personally). Truthfully, I have never talked to anyone there…. They are all strangers to me,” he said.

De Castro has had a history of voting in favor of Duterte’s policies. She has concurred in some of the high-stakes winning cases like acquitting former president and now Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo of plunder, granting a hero’s burial to dictator Ferdinand Marcos, keeping Senator Leila de Lima in jail, upholding martial law in Mindanao, and ousting Sereno who had spoken critically of Duterte.

She has also been the justice most widely viewed as Sereno’s “nemesis” because of her impassioned testimonies against the former chief justice in House hearings and their face-off in the SC oral arguments on the quo warranto petition. – Rappler.com

Pia Ranada

Pia Ranada is a senior reporter for Rappler covering Philippine politics and environmental issues. For tips and story suggestions, email her at pia.ranada@rappler.com.