President Rodrigo Duterte has appointed Justice Priscilla Baltazar Padilla as the newest justice of the Supreme Court, Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea confirmed to Rappler on Thursday evening, July 16.
Padilla, formerly of the Court of Appeals, will replace newly retired justice Andres Reyes Jr.
Padilla is a member of the influential religious group Iglesia ni Cristo (INC).
Asked about her INC affiliation, Padilla told the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) that she will not inhibit in cases that are of interest to the religious group.
"Generally, I will not inhibit myself.... The Supreme Court has held that mere membership in a fraternity, in a social organization, and even in religious oriented groups does not automatically disqualify a judge wherein a comember of the said religious organization or his or her lawyer is involved," said Padilla.
Padilla has served the Court of Appeals for 14 years.
Padilla is only 60 years old and will have 10 years to serve in the Supreme Court, following the trend of Duterte to pick young appointees who will serve beyond his presidency.
Padilla is a first-time applicant and bypassed the more senior justices of the appellate court, as well as the frequently shortlisted applicants like Justice Japar Dimaampao and Court Administrator Midas Marquez.
Padilla is Duterte's 13th appointee in the Supreme Court overall, but 3 of the appointees have already retired, so in the current composition, she is the 11th Duterte appointee.
She is also Duterte's third woman appointee to the Court, following Associate Justices Rosmari Carandang and Amy Lazaro Javier.
Padilla placed Number 5 in the 1984 Bar.
During her interview with the JBC, Padilla said she believes China should be held accountable for lapses in the coronavirus pandemic but that she is doubtful how one can do that given the sovereignty of the power nation.
Padilla agreed that despite Duterte's withdrawal, the International Criminal Court can still investigate claims that were brought to it before the withdrawal, such as the alleged crimes against humanity in the so-called war on drugs.
Padilla said the issue on the inheritance rights of the so-called "illegitimate" children should be left for Congress to resolve.
Padilla's answers on questions related to the ABS-CBN franchise indicated that like other applicants interviewed with her, she does not believe that the embattled network can get remedies from the High Court. – with a report from Pia Ranada/Rappler.com