FAST FACTS: Who is new Supreme Court Chief Justice Lucas Bersamin?

Jodesz Gavilan

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FAST FACTS: Who is new Supreme Court Chief Justice Lucas Bersamin?
Lucas Bersamin is appointed as top magistrate on his 9th year in the Supreme Court. He is retiring in 10 months.

MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte has chosen Lucas Bersamin as the new Supreme Court (SC) Chief Justice. 

He replaces Teresita Leonardo De Castro who retired on October 8, after a two-month leadership following the ouster of Maria Lourdes Sereno. 

Bersamin is appointed as top magistrate on his 9th year as associate justice. He’s the third most senior in the SC, after Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio and Associate Justice Diosdado Peralta.

He retires in October 2019, allowing him barely 10 months in his new post.

Long service

Then president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo appointed Bersamin to the High Court in April 2009 following the retirement of justice Adolfo Azcuna. 

He has been a member of the judiciary for more than 30 years. 

After engaging in private practice for more than 10 years, he was appointed as presiding judge of a Quezon City Regional Trial Court in 1986.  

As a trial court judge, Bersamin was awarded the Chief Justice Jose Abad Santos Award in 2002, and also earned awards for best decisions in civil law and criminal law in 2000.

In 2003, Bersamin joined the Court of Appeals. He was appointed to the SC 6 years later.

According to a Newsbreak story in 2015, Bersamin’s good friend, Justice Peralta, endorsed him to Arroyo to join the bench.

Bersamin earned his law degree from the University of the East and joined the bar after taking the 9th spot in the 1973 Bar Examinations. He obtained his undergraduate degree in Political Science at the University of the Philippines Diliman in 1968. 

He has taught in various law schools, including his alma mater UE, Ateneo Law School, and the University of Santo Tomas Faculty of Civil Law.

Bersamin comes from a political family based in Abra. His brothers include former governor Eustaquio Bersamin and former congressman Luis Bersamin Jr who was assassinated in 2006.  

SC performance

In 2015, Bersamin was placed in the spotlight as the ponente of a controversial SC ruling which granted bail to former senator Juan Ponce Enrile who is accused of plunder. His ties with high-profile lawyer Estelito Mendoza were questioned.  

Justice Marvic Leonen, in his dissent, revealed that the draft decision Bersamin submitted to the en banc for deliberations and voting was a different from what he circulated for signing. 

Bersamin’s other voting records on key SC decisions also shows he tends to lean towards the executive or politicians, and under the Duterte administration, towards the President.

He penned the decision acquitting Arroyo of plunder, voted to acquit former senator Jinggoy Estrada of plunder, and voted to allow a hero’s burial for the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos.

Bersamin also voted in favor of the administration in all cases involving Duterte’s policies and actions. These include martial law in Mindanao, the arrest of opposition Senator Leila de Lima, and the ouster of Sereno. 

During the oral arguments before the SC on martial law in Mindanao, he pushed for a constitution that widens the criteria for proclaiming martial law to address current national security threats.

How will he steer the SC until his retirement in 2019? –

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Jodesz Gavilan

Jodesz Gavilan is a writer and researcher for Rappler and its investigative arm, Newsbreak. She covers human rights and impunity beats, producing in-depth and investigative reports particularly on the quest for justice of victims of former president Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs and war on dissent.