Diosdado Peralta is new Chief Justice

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, October 23) — Third time's the charm for Diosdado Peralta, who has finally been appointed as the country's next Chief Justice after three consecutive attempts.

President Rodrigo Duterte signed Peralta's appointment paper on Wednesday. Duterte chose him over junior colleagues Associate Justices Estela Perlas-Bernabe and Andres Reyes, Jr.

Minutes after Supreme Court Spokesperson Brian Hosaka announced Peralta's takeover, a tarpaulin congratulating him was already displayed at the high court's building in Manila.

Peralta was also on the Judicial and Bar Council's shortlist during the search for Maria Lourdes Sereno's replacement in 2018.

In a historic Supreme Court ruling that year, Peralta concurred with seven other justices to unseat Sereno for failing to file some of her statements of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN).

Peralta then lost to Teresita Leonardo De Castro, who retired as head of the Supreme Court after a two-month stint, and to Lucas Bersamin, who stepped down on October 18 upon reaching the mandatory retirement age of 70.

The 67-year-old Peralta will serve for the remaining three years of Duterte's term. He will retire on March 2022.

How Peralta voted

Peralta has historically voted in favor of the President's pronouncements and policies, including the plunder acquittal of Duterte ally and former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and the interment of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani in 2016. Arroyo appointed Peralta to the high court in 2009.

Peralta also approved the continued declaration of martial law in Mindanao following the attack on Marawi in 2017. In 2018, he was among the justices who voted to uphold the arrest and detention of Senator Leila de Lima, a staunch Duterte critic, on drug charges. In 2019, he voted to uphold the legality of Boracay Island's six-month shutdown for rehabilitation as a "valid exercise of police power."

During his interview at the Judicial and Bar Council, Peralta was quizzed about his controversial 'ponencia' that allowed plea bargaining in drug cases amid criticisms that it hampered the government's anti-drug campaign. Peralta stood by his decision, stressing it was necessary and applied only in cases involving less than a gram of drugs and less than 10 grams of marijuana.

'I deserve to be Chief Justice'

Peralta also took an emotional trip down memory lane during his public interiew as he explained why he deserves to finally be the country's top judge.

"If I remember what I have experienced when I started working, mahirap eh (it's hard). I think I deserve to be Chief Justice because I worked very hard all these years," Peralta said as he teared up.

"I'm not the topnotcher, I'm not an honor student because that's what they say, hindi naman daw ako topnotcher... But I think I was able to compensate with the work that I've done," Peralta said, noting his three-decade public service as prosecutor, trial judge, and magistrate.

READ: 'There's hope for an individual like me — Justice Peralta

Peralta began his career in government service as Third Assistant City Fiscal of Laoag City in 1987. He then served at the Manila City Prosecutor's Office before being appointed Presiding Judge of Branch 95 of the Quezon City Regional Trial Court in 1994.

He was promoted to the Sandiganbayan in 2002; became its Presiding Justice in 2008. In 2009, he became the 162nd Associate Justice of the Supreme Court.

With Peralta’s appointment as the next top magistrate, Malacañang is optimistic the judiciary will “continue to be well-managed as it thrives to uphold the principles of judicial excellence, integrity and independence.”

The Palace said Peralta made several landmark rulings during his decades-long service, including on cases against plunder and illegal drugs.


The Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP), meanwhile, said it will work closely with Peralta to make sure processes are fast in the judicial system.

“We are hopeful that under his leadership the judiciary will resolve cases much faster inasmuch as his 25 years as magistrate are notable for speedy disposition of cases and innovations to expedite court processes,” IBP said in a statement.

CNN Philippines' Anjo Alimario and Alyssa Rola contributed to this report.