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Lucas Bersamin named Chief Justice

President Rodrigo Duterte has chosen Supreme Court (SC) Associate Justice Lucas Bersamin to be Chief Justice.

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra confirmed this to Rappler on Wednesday, November 28.

Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, the most senior member of the High Court, administered the oath to Bersamin past 2 pm, according to Associate Justice Marvic Leonen who posted the photo of the event on Twitter.

With the choice, Duterte goes against his own declaration that he would pick the next top magistrate based on seniority. Carpio has strongly differed with Duterte’s West Philippine Sea approach. 

Bersamin, the third most senior in the Court, is set to retire in October 2019. (READ: Who is new Supreme Court Chief Justice Lucas Bersamin?)

Yet Malacañang insisted on Wednesday that Bersamin is "the most senior in the Supreme Court in terms of services rendered under the Judicial Branch in various capacities."

Presidential Spokesman Salvador Panelo said Bersamin served as presiding judge of a Quezon City Regional Trial Court for 17 years, and Court of Appeals justice for 6 years, before he was appointed associated justice of the High Court in 2009. 

Panelo said Malacañang is confident that Bersamin and new Associate Justice Rosmari Carandang "will continue to uphold judicial excellence, assert its independence and stand firm against erring members of the bench, the bar and court personnel."

Voting record

Bersamin wrote the controversial SC ruling acquitting former president and now Speaker Gloria Macapagal Arroyo of plunder. He also penned the ruling that allowed plunder defendant Juan Ponce Enrile to post bail.  

He also expressly voted to acquit Jinggoy Estrada but lost, with a narrow win to uphold the plunder charges against the former senator.

He dealt a blow to the administration of Benigno Aquino III as ponente of the decision striking down parts of the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAF) as unconstitutional. 

In the Duterte administration, Bersamin has a record of voting in favor of the firebrand President’s policies.

He voted to give the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos a hero’s burial, declared Duterte’s martial law in Mindanao constitutional, and agreed that the arrest of Senator Leila de Lima over drug charges is valid.

Bersamin was also among the justices who voted to oust former chief justice Maria Lourdes Sereno through a quo warranto petition.

Bersamin's most recent ponencia downgraded the charges against developer Delfin Lee, which allowed him to post bail in the P7-billion Globe Asiatique scam.

He controversially flip-flopped on the labor case against Philippine Airlines (PAL), a move that fellow SC Associate Justice Marvic Leonen said “besmirches” the High Court. Bersamin had even written the ponencia. 

On October 2, 2009, Bersamin concurred with the SC's Special 3rd Division decision that declared as invalid PAL’s retrenchment of 5,000 of its workers.

Nine years later, in 2018, he made a turn-around, declaring PAL’s retrenchment valid, even penning the SC en banc’s decision. – with a report from Lian Buan/Rappler.com

Pia Ranada

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 pia.ranada@rappler.com.

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