Duterte denies he appointed De Castro for supporting Sereno ouster

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President Rodrigo Duterte and Supreme Court Associate Justice Teresita Leonardo-De Castro.

Updated with the statements from the Integrated Bar of the Philippines.

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, August 27) President Rodrigo Duterte denied claims he appointed Supreme Court (SC) Associate Justice Teresita Leonardo-De Castro as the next Chief Justice for helping oust her predecessor, Maria Lourdes Sereno.

Duterte said De Castro's appointment was based on seniority.

"Train 'yan eh. Kung sino 'yung naunang pumasok, siya 'yung unang ma-promote, and that would go for everybody," Duterte said in an interview with reporters Monday morning.

[Translation: Whoever went in first, must be promoted first, and that would go for everybody.]

The President added he is not familiar with the justices vying for the top magistrate post.

"I am not familiar of any of them actually, wala akong kakilalang justice na 'yung [I don't know of any justice at a level that is] personal. Truthfully I have not talked to anyone there," Duterte said. "They are strangers to me."

De Castro was among the 7 justices who voted in favor of a petition seeking Sereno's ouster in May. Strains in De Castro and Sereno's ties deepened after exchanging tirades in April over the latter's alleged invalid appointment as top magistrate.

Duterte had earlier said he wanted Sereno impeached.

Meanwhile, the camp of Maria Lourdes Sereno is silent on the appointment of Teresita Leonardo De Castro as the new Supreme Court (SC) Chief Justice.

In a text message, Sereno's spokesman Jojo Lacanilao said the former top magistrate has no comment on the recent development.

"CJ Sereno has no comment on the recent developments in the Supreme Court," Lacanilao's message read.

The Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP), however, is hoping De Castro's appointment will set a trend in upholding seniority when it comes to the chief justice post.

IBP President Abdiel Fajardo said upholding seniority is best for the judiciary's independence because it removes any political considerations in the appointment.

"Presidents would no longer be taking political considerations seriously into their thinking and would only look at seniority as major barometer or measuring rod in appointing a chief justice," Fajardo said Monday.

The 69-year-old De Castro will formally be appointed on Tuesday, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra said.

De Castro is set to be the shortest-serving Chief Justice as she is set to serve the post for only more than a month. She will retire on October 8 upon reaching the mandatory retirement age of 70.

President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo appointed De Castro associate justice in 2007.

CNN Philippines Correspondent AC Nicholls contributed to this report.