Roque lauds De Castro appointment

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, August 25) — Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque lauded the appointment made by President Rodrigo Duterte of a new Chief Justice.

News of De Castro’s appointment broke Saturday afternoon. Her appointment will be formalized on Tuesday.

“Bravo! Best choice for CJ! Proven competence, known nationalist and a streak of being a judicial activist,” said Roque, who was also appointed by Duterte.

In an interview with CNN Philippines, Roque said that the appointment was made in reference to “judicial careerism”.

“Pinagbibigyan niya yung mga nanilbihan nang matagal na panahon sa pagdating sa promotion sa Judikatura,” Roque said.

[Translation: He is giving a chance to those who have served the Judiciary for a long time.]

The appointment of former Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno by former President Benigno Aquino III was unorthodox, breaking the tradition of appointing from the longest-serving associate justices.

Roque said that seniority could be the “only explanation” why Duterte would appoint De Castro, who only has two months left before she turns 70, the compulsory age of retirement for a judge.

Another Duterte appointee, Solicitor General Jose Calida said that justice will be well-served during De Castro’s tenure.

“We are elated because her legal brilliance, competence, fairness and integrity ensure that justice will be well-served during her tenure,” Calida said in a statement.

‘42 days left to serve’

Having more or less two months left in her tenure, however, has become a sticking point to critics of De Castro’s appointment. She, along with six other justices, are facing impeachment complaints at the House of Representatives, for allegedly violating the Constitution when they had ousted Sereno through a quo warranto petition.

READ: 4 Chief Justice applicants slapped with impeachment rap for voting vs. Sereno

Representative Edcel Lagman, one of opposition solons who filed the impeachment complaint, said that the appointment, however short it might last, could be a reward for her role in ousting Sereno.

“Fealty to the high standards of ethics and morality required of Judicial officers should have compelled De Castro to forfeit her ambition said,” Lagman said, adding that De Castro should have declined her nomination for the Chief Justice position.

According to Lagman, De Castro has only 42 days left to serve as Chief Justice, which would not be enough time for her to get impeached should the complaint push through.

Representative Gary Alejano, another proponent of the impeachment complaint, called the appointment “bayad-utang”, or payment for a debt or favor.

“Ang pagtatalaga ni Duterte kay Teresita De-Castro bilang Punong Mahistrado ay maliwanag na nagpapakita ng bayad-utang, kawalan ng delicadeza at kagarapalan sa gobyernong ito,” Alejano said in a statement.

[Translation: The appointment of Teresita De Castro as Chief Justice by Duterte is a clear payment of a debt, lack of delicadeza and shamelessness of this government.]

Alejano said that with this appointment, De Castro would leave her post with all the retirement benefits of a Chief Justice instead of an associate justice.

De Castro has spent 45 years as a public official, entering the Judiciary as a clerk at the Supreme Court in 1973, one year after she had graduated from the University of the Philippines College of Law.

She rose through the ranks to associate justice of the Sandiganbayan in 1997, and then became the presiding justice of the anti-graft court in 2004.

She was appointed as associate justice of the Supreme Court in 2007 by then President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, who now sits as House Speaker.