CHIEF Justice Diosdado Peralta will retire from his post a year early, allowing President Duterte to appoint another justice to the Supreme Court before his term ends in 2022.
A court insider said Peralta has informed his colleagues of his plan to announce his retirement on March 27, 2021, when he celebrates his 69th birthday.
The mandatory retirement age of justices is 70.
The insider said Peralta informed his colleagues of his plan during the regular en banc session yesterday. The insider, however, did not say Peralta’s reason for his decision.
SC spokesman Brian Keith Hosaka later confirmed the information.
“I have asked him personally and he confirmed it. The Chief Justice did not elaborate further but said he will make a formal announcement in due time,” Hosaka said.
Peralta was appointed to the SC in 2009 as an associate justice by former president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.
Before that, he served as Sandiganbayan associate justice from 2002 to 2008.
In October last year, President Duterte named him to the top judicial post after the retirement of chief justice Lucas Bersamin, who served for only a year.
Bersamin took over from Teresita Leonardo de Castro, who served for less than two months. De Castro was named the chief justice after the ouster of Ma. Lourdes Sereno.
There is another opening in the SC following the unexpected retirement last November 3 of Associate Justice Priscilla Baltazar Padilla due to physical disability.
In the current SC hierarchy, Associate Justice Estela Perlas Bernabe is the second most senior justice after Peralta, followed by Associate Justices Marvic Leonen and Alfredo Benjamin Caguioa.
Perlas-Bernabe, Leonen and Caguioa were all appointees of former president Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III. Bernabe is set to reach the mandatory retirement age in June 2022.
The fifth most senior SC justice is Alexander Gesmundo, a Duterte appointee who will serve until 2026.
Among the high-profile decisions that Peralta penned were the ruling allowing the burial of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani and the 2017 decision allowing plea bargaining in small-time drug cases.
He also voted to affirm the legality of the arrest of opposition Sen. Leila de Lima and the imposition and subsequent extension of martial law in Mindanao in the wake of the attack by the ISIS-linked Maute terrorist group in Marawi in 2017.
He also voted to dismiss the writ of kalikasan petition filed by fishermen in Zambales and Palawan to compel government agencies to protect and preserve the marine environment in the West Philippine Sea from illegal fishing and other destructive practices of foreigners, mostly Chinese fishermen.
He also voted to oust Sereno from her post and even testified against her in the impeachment proceedings before the House of Representatives.