MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – President Rodrigo Duterte has appointed Sandiganbayan Associate Justice Samuel Martires as Supreme Court (SC) justice.
This was confirmed to Rappler by a Palace official close to the President on Monday, March 6.
The SC later on confirmed it had received Martires' appointment papers, which were signed on March 2. Martires is replacing SC Associate Justice Jose Perez who retired last December 14. (READ: Who's who: Candidates vying for SC justice post)
Martires himself told the news to justice beat reporters earlier on Monday at the Sandiganbayan.
"Being [Supreme Court] justice hasn't sunk in yet, even until now. I thank the Lord for the blessing he has showered me. I just hope he will continue to bless me," he said.
Last November, Martires had to answer the Judicial and Bar Council's queries on his independence, after admitting he had met with the President last August.
After the reported courtesy calls of justices, Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno had stressed the need to keep courts independent to preserve the separation of branches in government.
In 2011, Martires also wrote the decision dismissing a case against then-Davao City mayor Duterte over the demolition of a park installed by his political rival in 2008.
Martires also penned the resolution approving the plea bargain of retired military comptroller Major General Carlos Garcia.
The deal allowed the former military comptroller to petition for the lesser charge of direct bribery and money laundering, instead of plunder. In exchange, Garcia would have to surrender P135.43 million of his assets.
This deal triggered the impeachment move against Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez, who eventually resigned before her impeachment trial even began.
Martires also penned the decision that cleared the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos, the late Fabian Ver, and businessman Roberto Ongpin in connection with the alleged Binondo Central Bank scam. (READ: Court clears Marcos, Ongpin in Binondo bank scam)
Martires is the first SC justice to be appointed by Duterte. But he retires in 2019, before the end of term of President Duterte.
Thus the President gets to appoint at least 12 more justices in his term.
By the time his term ends in 2022, only 3 Supreme Court justices will not be his appointees: Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno (retiring in 2030), Associate Justice Marvic Leonen (retiring in 2032), and Associate Justice Benjamin Caguioa (retiring in 2030). – Rappler.com
Pia Ranada covers the Office of the President and Bangsamoro regional issues for Rappler. While helping out with desk duties, she also watches the environment sector and the local government of Quezon City. For tips or story suggestions, you can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.