President Rodrigo Duterte’s appointed magistrates to the Supreme Court rose to 11 following his appointment of Court of Appeals Associate Justice Samuel Gaerlan to take over the seat vacated by Associate Justice Diosdado Peralta, who was promoted as the 26th Chief Justice on Oct. 23.
That means President Duterte’s appointees now constitute more than a majority of eight among the incumbent justices. That is on top of his appointment of Peralta as top magistrate following the retirement of Chief Justice Lucas Bersamin.
However, Peralta says the judiciary’s independence will remain even if majority of the justices are Duterte appointees.
“Every Supreme Court magistrate and those in the lower courts vow to preserve the independence of the judiciary, adhere to the tenets of the Constitution, and uphold the Rule of Law,” Peralta said earlier.
“Once a magistrate takes his or her oath, his or her fealty is to the Constitution, not to the appointing authority.”
Peralta will lead the judiciary until he reaches the mandatory retirement age of 70 on March 27, 2022.
The 10 other presidential appointees are Associate Justices Andres B. Reyes Jr., Alexander G. Gesmundo, Jose C. Reyes Jr., Ramon Paul L. Hernando, Rosmari D. Carandang, Amy C. Lazaro Javier, Henri Jean Paul B. Inting, Rodil V. Zalameda, Mario V. Lopez and Edgardo L. Delos Angeles.
The other members of the high court are Senior Associate Justices Estela M. Perlas Bernabe, Associate Justices Marvic Mario Victor F. Leonen and Alfredo Benjamin S. Caguioa, who were all appointed by President Benigno Aquino III.
Gaerlan will be assigned to the high court’s third division to complete the regular membership of five justices per division.
It was not clear when Gaerlan will be officially designated a member of the third division. He took his oath of office before the President on Wednesday.
Once Gaerlan’s division membership is designated by Peralta, the composition of the three divisions will be as follows:
First division—Peralta as chairman, Caguioa as working chairman, and Jose Reyes, Javier and Lopez as members.
Second division—Bernabe as chairman with Andres Reyes, Hernando, Inting and Delos Santos as members.
Third division—Leonen as chairman with Gesmundo, Carandang, Zalameda and Gaerlan as members.
The high court meets as a group every Tuesday, while the divisions hold sessions on Mondays and Wednesdays.