Chief Justice De Castro's first hearing: Petition vs. PH's pullout from ICC

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, August 28) — Chief Justice Teresita Leonardo de Castro formally assumed her post Tuesday, and her first task is to hear a petition against President Rodrigo Duterte's decision to pull the country out of the International Criminal Court (ICC).

De Castro took her oath in the morning, shortly after receiving her appointment paper. She was warmly welcomed by colleagues and supporters who even gave her flowers and placed white and red balloons at the Supreme Court building in Manila.

 

A number of protesters, however,  were outside the Supeme Court, chanting "Ang cheap, ang cheap, ang cheap ng justice ninyo (Your justice is cheap)."

 

READ: 'Move on,' De Castro tells critics on busy 1st day as Chief Justice

At 2:30 p.m., De Castro led for the first time oral arguments as Chief Justice: the minority senators' petition urging the High Court to stop the country's withdrawal from the Rome Statute, the treaty that formed the ICC.

Senators Kiko Pangilinan, Franklin Drilon, Bam Aquino, Risa Hontiveros, Antonio Trillanes, and Leila de Lima filed the petition on May 16. They argued the executive cannot pull the country out of the international tribunal without the Senate's concurrence.

They earlier wanted De Lima to argue their case, but this was denied by the Supreme Court. De Lima, a staunch critic of the Duterte administration, has been detained at the Philippine National Police Custodial Center on drug charges. She has said her drug cases are all trumped-up charges.

Duterte announced he is pulling the country out of the ICC in March, a month after the international tribunal announced a preliminary examination on alleged extrajudicial killings in the country. A preliminary examination will determine whether there is cause to go on a full-blown investigation.

The ICC said it will push through with its preliminary examination. Duterte and his officials said the ICC has no jurisdiction over the Philippines because it was never a member of the ICC. They argued the country's ratification of the Rome Statute never took effect as it was not published on the Official Gazette.

De Castro will lead the hearing as her own appointment is being questioned. Critics said it was Duterte's reward for her, being one of the eight justices who voted to oust Maria Lourdes Sereno as Chief Justice. Duterte has declared himself an enemy of Sereno when she insisted he was behind moves to remove her from office.

Duterte on Monday said he chose De Castro since she was the most senior among the three justices in the shortlist. The other two were Associate Justices Diosdado Peralta and Lucas Bersamin.

"Train 'yan eh. Kung sino 'yung naunang pumasok, siya 'yung unang ma-promote, and that would go for everybody," Duterte told reporters.

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

De Castro only has less than two months to serve, since she is retiring on October 8 when she reaches the mandatory retirement age of 70.

She is also facing an impeachment complaint, along with other associate justices who voted to unseat Sereno.

CNN Philippines' Anjo Alimario contributed to this report.