Supreme Court of the Philippines

Vacancy on June 30: Supreme Court accepts Delos Santos’ early retirement

Lian Buan

EARLY RETIREMENT. Associate Justice Edgardo Delos Santos will retire a year early on June 30.

Lian Buan/Rappler

(1st UPDATE) Duterte has 4 more appointments to make before his term ends in June 2022

The Supreme Court en banc has accepted Associate Justice Edgardo delos Santos’ early retirement effective on June 30, Rappler has confirmed with sources privy to the issue.

The en banc has issued a resolution accepting Delos Santos’ retirement a year earlier than the mandatory schedule, which would create a new vacancy on June 30.

Supreme Court Spokesperson Brian Keith Hosaka confirmed this action, and showed the resolution dated May 12.

Delos Santos expressed his intent to retire early last March. Hosaka earlier said it was “due to health reasons.”

Delos Santos told his staff in a letter that “I have agonized over this decision to hand my judicial robe early.”

There is currently one open spot on the Bench, created when Chief Justice Alexander Gesmundo was appointed as top magistrate.

The Judicial and Bar Council has received 15 applications for the Gesmundo post, and will interview the seven new applicants on June 2 and 3.

Among the new applicants are Sandiganbayan Justices Geraldine Faith Econg and Rafael Lagos. Econg wrote the 3-2 decision which acquitted Senator Bong Revilla of plunder. Lagos, on the other hand, voted not to grant bail to former senator Jinggoy Estrada in the latter’s plunder case but he lost. Lagos also was part of the majority decision that convicted Imelda Marcos of graft.

Deputy Court Administrator Raul Villanueva also applied, joining repeat applicants like Court Administrator Midas Marquez, Sandiganbayan Presiding Justice Amparo Cabotaje-Tang and Court of Appeals Justices Japar Dimaampao and Maria Filomena Singh.

Although Delos Santos’ original retirement date on June 12, 2022, still falls within the midnight appointment period for President Rodrigo Duterte, an early retirement would give the president more room to take a new pick.

Delos Santos would be the fourth justice to retire early under Duterte, the three of which happened just during the pandemic period.

Including the appointment for Gesmundo’s associate justice post, Duterte has four more appointments to make before his term ends in June 2022. The four appointments include replacements for Senior Associate Justice Estela Perlas Bernabe (May 15, 2022) and Associate Justice Rosmari Carandang (January 9, 2022).

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra, who has been repeatedly nominated for a justice post but declined it, would still qualify for the June 30 opening as he would only be 67 years old and one month by then. New JBC rules say an applicant would have to serve at least two-and-a-half years, or be at most 67 years and 6 months old at the time of appointment.

By the end of his presidency, only two SC justices would be non-Duterte appointees – the dissenters Associate Justices Marvic Leonen and Benjamin Caguioa. –

Lian Buan

Lian Buan covers justice and corruption for Rappler. She is interested in decisions, pleadings, audits, contracts, and other documents that establish a trail. If you have leads, email or tweet @lianbuan.