MANILA, Philiippines – “I know that you have expected maybe another individual to be appointed to this office,” said Chief Justice Lucas Bersamin, “I am not apologizing for my self, I am not apologizing for the President. I am here because I was appointed.”
Bersamin spoke before employees of the Supreme Court in his first speech as top magistrate during the flag-raising ceremony on Monday, December 3.
There were 8 justices in attendance on Monday, missing the 3 applicants that Bersamin beat to the post: Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, Associate Justice Diosdado Peralta, and Associate Justice Estela Perlas Bernabe.
Perhaps knowing too well that observers might think non-attendance in flag ceremonies mean lack of support, Bersamin was quick to address the issue.
“Those whom you do not see there have reasons why they are not here with us this morning,” Bersamin said.
Bersamin was only the 3rd most senior justice out of the 4 applicants at a time when the time-honored tradition of seniority has never been more pronounced at the High Court. Malacañang explained that Bersamin was considered the most senior because he had served in the judiciary the longest, having been judge since 1986.
It was a new way to define seniority.
“Hindi ko naman sasabhin na ako ang pinaka-senior, hindi ko ‘yan karapatan na sabihin ‘yan. Maaaring may mas matanda sa akin na nakaupo ngayon, but at age 69 I can look back and I can tell you I have 32 years behind me in this business,” said Bersamin.
(I will not say that I am the most senior, that is not my right to say, because some who are sitting [in the court] now can be more senior than me.)
Bersamin’s appointment ended Carpio’s bid for the top post, as the latter will retire in October 2019, never having been named Chief Justice despite being the most senior in the last 3 appointments.
“I will tell you I am an accidental chief justice, but that is not a statement of apology, I do not apologize to anyone for having been appointed. That is the wisdom of a president who is the appointing power. Please accept me,” Bersamin said.
“Kung meron pa rin sa inyong reservations (If there are still some of you who have reservations) come to me and see me and I will fire you,” the new chief justice said on a lighter tone, saying that it sounds “like the President.”
Bersamin’s voting record shows him voting in favor of all cases of interest to President Rodrigo Duterte. His record also indicates he has a tendency to favor the executive branch or politicians, a judicial philosophy he does not conceal, saying he will restrain in favor of government actions.
Bersamin is the justice who told the new batch of lawyers during the June 1 oath taking that those who criticize the Court outside “judicial guidelines” may “lose their privilege of membership in the Bar.”
“I do not like to be dictatorial. I love you all, and I will like you to be as open to me as I have been to you,” Bersamin said.
Relationships within the Court
The two chief justices who have been ousted in the past, Renato Corona and Maria Lourdes Sereno, were chief justices who were not the most senior. This fuels fear that not following seniority in the Chief Justice appointments may lead to another wave of rocky relationships within the court.
“Dito sa Supreme Court wala ‘ata tayong masyadong problema, nagamot na natin ‘yan. Kung meron kayong perception na meron pa rin tayong problema, ilapit ninyo sa akin, idulog ninyo sa akin, at sosolusyonan natin ‘yan. Wala na tayong dapat isipin tungkol sa nakaraan, at ang nakaraan na ‘yan ay irrelevant na. This is the new beginning,” he said.
(Here in the Supreme Court, we no longer have that many problems, we have solved it, but if there are still perceptions that we have problems, tell me and we will solve it. Let’s not think about the past, the past is irrelevant. This is the new beginning.)
He added: “I ask you to wlecome me, to love me, to help me, to support me in my 11 months. Maikli lang ‘yan, pagbigyan ‘nyo na po ako (That’s a short time, please give me a chance).” – Rappler.com