MANILANewly-appointed Chief Justice Teresita Leonardo-de Castro on Tuesday said she has no time to think about the impeachment complaint filed by opposition lawmakers in the House of Representatives against her and six other magistrates, who voted to oust her predecessor, Maria Lourdes Sereno, via quo warranto proceedings.
I have no time to think about it, because you know as you mentioned, I have very few weeks to work here in the court, and I don't want to be distracted by anything else, my schedule is full, I have so many activities set in the coming weeks, I do not wish to be distracted by that, de Castro said in a press conference.
Last week, Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, Magdalo Rep. Gary Alejano, Ifugao Rep. Teddy Baguilat, and Akbayan Rep. Tom Villarin filed impeachment complaints against the seven SC justices for alleged culpable violation of the Constitution and betrayal of public trust.
Aside from de Castro, the other magistrates facing impeachment raps are Noel Tijam, de Castro, Andres Reyes Jr., Alexander Gesmundo, Lucas Bersamin, Diosdado Peralta, and Francis Jardeleza.
Not a reward
De Castro, meanwhile, shrugged off insinuations that her appointment as top magistrate by President Rodrigo Duterte was a reward for allegedly helping in Sereno's ouster.
The country's new top judge also urged everyone to "move on for the good of the judiciary."
"I do not think that one incident would have been enough to elevate me to the highest position in the judiciary. I think they should look at my record. We should all move on and work together for the good of our judiciary," de Castro said.
The 69-year-old Chief Justice, who has been in government service for 45 years, said it is time to look forward and support the projects to reform the judiciary.
"I think we should all move on for the good of the judiciary. Let us put the past behind us but of course, we should not forget the lessons that we learned in that event in the history of the judiciary," she noted.
Prior to her appointment, de Castro has been working on many projects, one of which is the establishment of family courts in the country.
De Castro noted that when she was chair of the High Court's committee on family courts and juvenile concerns, the SC was able to convince Congress to fund family courts in 2016.
"So as you see, I will not be working only for two months, I've been working for years, since 2009, for the computerization of the judiciary, and for 2014 for the organization of regular family courted and also the reforms in the rules. Supreme Court rules pertaining to family cases and cases involving children in conflict with the law, I cannot mention any more here because there are so many of them. My committee on family courts was able to secure so many reforms with respect with the processes followed by the family courts, and with respect to rules applicable to children in conflict of the law, she explained.
Legacy despite a short stint
De Castro, meanwhile, said she wants to leave a legacy of restoring collegiality in the High Court.
I want the de Castro court to be remembered as the court that restored collegiality in the Supreme Court, the court which was able to institute several reforms in the judicial processes and I think we can do that, in such a way that the processes in the judiciary becomes more expeditious, less costly and more accessible to the general public, she said.
The new Chief Justice also maintained that there is no threat to judicial independence in the country.
"I have no problem about maintaining independence in the Judiciary. I would like to inform everyone that up to this time, I have not met the President. I have not seen him. I did not approach him so he appointed me without knowing me personally," de Castro said.
She also backed Duterte's remarks emphasizing seniority as an important factor in giving promotions.
I don't think that the President would do anything that will impair the independence of the judiciary. (I appreciate) that the President has that strong political will to see to it that the merit system which is the hallmark of public appointment for public service is followed and upholding the time honored tradition of seniority in the Supreme Court, she noted.
Seniority is important because one who is senior will have a vast experience as to the workings of the court and it is expected that the senior members of the court will have the respect of the rest of the members of the court, the top magistrate added.
De Castro also expressed gratitude to her colleagues for the support and warm welcome during her oath-taking at the SC, where all the magistrates are present.
SAJ (Senior Associate Justice Antonio) Carpio mentioned early on, we're working normally, and I'm happy that I have the support of all of my colleagues, they were all present during my first day of work, and I appreciate very much the warm welcome I got from all of them. There was no disruption as to how we do things normally during en banc session, but of coursethere was applause coming from them, we first saw each other, they all congratulated me, I did not perceive any untoward feeling so I'm so happy that I got the support of all of them, she said.
De Castro will have the shortest stint as top magistrate of the High Court with only 41 days in office as she will retire from the judiciary on October 8.
In the SC's history, former Chief Justice Pedro Yap, an appointee of former President Corazon Aquino, served for only 72 days from April 19, 1988 until June 30, 1988.
Former Chief Justice Felix Makasiar, meanwhile, served for only 117 days when he was appointed by former President Ferdinand Marcos on July 25, 1985. He retired on November 19, 1985. (PNA)
Source: Philippine News Agency