By Rey Panaligan
Chief Justice Teresita J. Leonardo de Castro took up her new position as head of the judiciary on Tuesday and swore to retain the independence of the judge, to maintain collegiality with co-judges and to speed up the resolution of cases of the courts for trial at the Supreme Court (SC).
De Castro was appointed by President Duterte last Saturday and the appointment letter was forwarded to the SC on Tuesday. She took her oath for Premier Antonio T. Carpio in the presence of all SC judges during the full court session on Tuesday.
She was the chairman of the full session and the oral observations on two petitions challenging the constitutionality of President Duterte & # 39; s denunciation of Philippine membership in the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court (ICC).
In a meeting with journalists treating the SC, Chief Justice De Castro said that she has no time for the charges against her deposition and six other judges to dismiss Mary Lourdes P. A. Sereno as Chief Justice last April.
De Castro will be the main lawyer on August 41, from August 28 to October 8, 2018, when she turns 70, the mandatory retirement age for members of the judiciary.
"I do not have time to think about it (complaint for accusation) … I have very few weeks to work here in court, and I do not want to be distracted by anything else, my schedule is full. In the coming weeks, so many activities set up, I do not want to be distracted by that ", she emphasized.
De Castro said of judicial independence: "I will have no problem with maintaining the independence of the judiciary."
"I would like to inform everyone that I have not met the President so far, I have not seen him, I have not approached him either directly or through anyone else.
So he appointed me without knowing me personally. I do not think the president will do anything to affect the independence of the judiciary, "she said.
De Castro then thanked the president for his strong political will, to ensure that the merit system, which is the hallmark of public appointment in public service, is followed, and in upholding the time-honored tradition of seniority at the Supreme Court. "
She explained that seniority is important "because someone who is senior will have ample experience with the functioning of the Court, and the high-ranking members of the court are expected to respect the rest of the members of the Court. . "
She unmasked claims from some sectors that her appointment was a reward for voting for Sereno & # 39; s deposition.
"I think they should look at my report, I'm in government for 45 years, and by the time I retired, I would have served in the government for 45 years and eight months." I worked in the SC for five years. As a young lawyer, I went to the Ministry of Justice where I worked 19. I was promoted to Sandiganbayan in 1997 and became the president in 2004. So I served in the Sandiganbayan for ten years and held the highest position there.
"And then I got promoted to the Supreme Court, I've been working here since 2007. So I think people just have to look at my state of service, my long service in the judiciary, I do not think one incident (Sereno ouster) would have been enough to elevate me to the highest position of the judiciary. & # 39;
She told her critics: "We all need to go further and work together for the good of our judiciary, let's leave the past behind, but of course we should not forget the lessons we have learned in the history of the judiciary. # 39;
She pointed out that SC judges do not start their work when he or she becomes Chief Justice.
"We should work at the moment when we are first appointed to the court and that was what I did, so which legacy I leave when I retire is not the product of two months or weeks. for many years, "she said.
Chief Justice's position was beyond her imagination, she said: "I've been working on many projects that I want to do if I do not retire as Chief Justice but as an associated court, and I'm very glad I did, because I will just have to continue with these projects that I have started much earlier, years before my retirement in October. "
Referring to an example, she said that since 2014 she has been the chairman of the SC Committee for Family Courts and Youth Care. She said:
"I started working in September 2014 to find out what's wrong, and why we do not have regular family courts since 1997. Our family courts are regional courts designated as family courts, although family courts were established in 1997.
"So I've worked hard to ensure that family courts are funded by Congress and really, in 2015 we were able to convince Congress to fund family councils from 2016. So what we did was make sure we recommend the organization of family courts in groups because it is physically impossible to do all of this in one go all over the country.
"So we decided to do it by batch, we were successful in 2016. The congress funded 48 family courts, the real family courts as created by law, and in 2017 we secured the funding of another 50 family courts and in 2018 we a number of family courts and another batch in 2019, consisting of 50 family courts.
"So as you can see, I will not only work for two months, I have been working for years for the automation of the judiciary for years, for the organization of regular family courts and also for the reforms in the rules.
"These are rules of the Supreme Court regarding family affairs and cases involving children who are in violation of the law, I can not mention here anymore because there are so many." My family law committee was able to bring about so many reforms to the processes followed by the family courts, and to rules that apply to children who are in conflict with the law. & # 39;
She also said that she had worked vigorously as head of the management committee for project support projects on judicial reforms (JRSPP and the information system for the whole information society of the judiciary (EISP)).
Projects on JRSPP and EISP have all been designed to increase the efficiency of the judiciary, in particular for quick resolution of cases from the courts to the SC
When she asked him how the De Castro court would want to be remembered, she said: "I want the Castro court to be remembered as the court that restored collegiality in the Supreme Court, the court that could introduce various reforms in the judicial processes And I think we can do that, in such a way that the processes in the judiciary become faster, cheaper and more accessible to the general public. "
Meanwhile, senator leader Franklin Drilon urged Leonardo-De Castro to refrain from participating in all pending politically charged cases before the Supreme Court to remove all doubts and suspicions that her appointment was merely a "reward" for her role in the former high court captain Maria Deposition of Lourdes Sereno.
"All questions, problems and doubts concerning the appointment of Chief Justice Teresa Leonardo de Castro, in particular with regard to its impartiality, can only be dealt with if the newly appointed chief magistrate refrains from participating in a political matter pending before the court. "Drilon said in a statement.
"I encourage her to slow down politically charged issues to maintain the integrity of the decision the Supreme Court can take during her short term of office," said the minority head. (With a report from Hannah Torregoza)