Teresita Leonardo-de Castro is new SC Chief Justice
Associate Justice Teresita Leonardo-de Castro is the new Supreme Court (SC) chief justice, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra confirmed Saturday.
“Justice de Castro is the new CJ. I have been informed that the President’s choice has been publicly announced by SAP Bong Go and that the formal appointment will be released by Executive Secretary (Salvador) Medialdea on Tuesday,” Guevarra said in a message sent to reporters.
However, de Castro, who replaces ousted Maria Lourdes Sereno, would be serving as top magistrate for about a month as she will retire this year when she reaches the mandatory retirement age of 70 on October 8.
“Her appointment as Chief Justice is (a) fitting finale to Justice de Castro’s illustrious careers in both department of justice and the judiciary,” Guevarra added.
De Castro bested her two co-magistrates, SC Justice Diosdado Peralta, the third most senior in the High Court, and Justice Lucas Bersamin, for the top magistrate post.
During the Judicial and Bar Council’s (JBC) public interview last Aug. 16, de Castro said despite her imminent retirement from the judiciary in less than two months, she will be able to introduce reforms in the SC once named Chief Justice.
De Castro said she has been working on key judicial reform projects since 2009.
“I’ve been working on judicial reform projects since 2009. In two years’ time, I was the seventh senior justice of the Court. There are continuing ones. Computerization of many of the functions of the judiciary,” said de Castro, who is the most senior justice among the applicants for the top magistrate post.
One of the important projects she wants to put in place is the Judiciary Case Management Information System, which will serve as a tracking system to record and monitor the progress of cases from its filing at the lower court up to the final resolution in SC.
“We already had in place terms of reference for this hiring of the consultant for the project,” she said.
De Castro also mentioned another key project, the Enterprise Resource Planning System, which aims to tackle administrative matters, such as accounting, attendance and leave of personnel.
“There are already terms of reference prepared for the bidding for consultancy services (for this project) but it was stopped,” she said.
She also wants to strengthen the Management Committee on Judicial Reforms where complaints against justices can be brought to court.
De Castro, however, lamented that the committee was not organized after the stint of the late Chief Justice Renato Corona.
Corona was replaced by Sereno, whose appointment was voided through quo warranto proceedings in May.
“I have assumed chairmanship of the Management Committee on Judicial Reforms during CJ Puno and CJ Corona’s tenure. One of the important things I’d like to do before I retire is to reorganize the ethics and ethical standards committee. There must be a grievance machinery in SC so we can discipline our own,” de Castro explained.
De Castro is the second most senior Associate Justice of the Supreme Court (SC) and she started her career as law clerk at the SC, and then moved to the Department of Justice (DOJ) as a state counsel. She was eventually appointed as Sandiganbayan Associate Justice and even became the graft court’s Presiding Justice.
At Sandiganbayan, de Castro authored the decision convicting former president Joseph Estrada of plunder. In 2015, she also penned the decision dismissing the disqualification case against Estrada, thereby upholding the eligibility of the former Chief Executive to run for mayor in Manila. Estrada is currently mayor of the City of Manila, the country’s capital.
In 2008, de Castro authored the SC decision that affirmed the executive privilege invoked by former socioeconomic planning secretary Romulo Neri, who was tagged in the controversy surrounding the NBN-ZTE deal during the Arroyo administration.
It was also de Castro, being the justice in-charge on the case of the senior citizens’ party-list, who recommended that the Commission on Elections (Comelec) be stopped from implementing its order disqualifying the Coalition of Senior Citizens in the Philippines. The decision became controversial after she accused then Chief Justice Sereno of altering the “restraining order.”
She graduated from the University of the Philippines College of Law in 1972 with a certificate of merit award for academic excellence.
De Castro was an appointee of former president and now House of Representatives Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. (PNA)