BY JOCELYN MONTEMAYOR and ASHZEL HACHERO
PRESIDENT Duterte yesterday named Supreme Court Associate Justice Diosdado Peralta as chief justice vice Lucas Bersamin who retired last week, Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea said.
Court officials and employees welcomed his appointment.
A large banner congratulating Peralta, who will serve until March 2022, was put up in front of the SC main building on Padre Faura, Manila minutes after Malacañang’s announcement.
Among high-profile decisions Peralta penned while serving as associate justice was the 2016 ruling upholding the legality of the burial of dictator Ferdinand Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani. He also voted in favor of the ouster of former Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno and to affirm the legality of the arrest of opposition Sen. Leila de Lima in February 2017.
Brian Keith Hosaka, chief of the SC Public Information Office, said with two-and-a-half decades of judicial service to his credit, Peralta is the most senior among the justices in terms of the number of years of service in the judiciary.
“He is also the most senior among the associate justices who applied for the top SC post in terms of tenure in the High Court,” he said.
Peralta beat Associate Justices Estela Perlas Bernabe and Andres Reyes Jr. to the top judicial post.
Born in Laoag City, Ilocos Norte, Peralta started his career in government service in 1987 when he was appointed Third Assistant City Fiscal of Laoag City.
He was assigned to the Prosecutor’s Office in the City of Manila in 1988 and later became the Assistant Chief of the Investigation Division of the Office of the City Prosecutor in the early part of 1994.
He joined the Judiciary in September 1994 when he was appointed presiding judge of Branch 95 of the Regional Trial Court of Quezon City, which was designated as a Special Criminal Court on Heinous Crimes and, later, drug cases.
He was promoted to the Sandiganbayan in 2002, and became its presiding justice in 2008.
On Jan. 13, 2009, he was named as the 162nd Associate Justice of the SC, making him the third presiding justice of the anti-graft court to be appointed to the High Court.
Other high-profile decisions Peralta penned were the 2016 ruling requiring mandatory compliance with chain of custody requirements in drug cases, and the August 2017 decision allowing plea bargaining in small-time drug cases.
In June this year, he penned the decision granting retroactive application of Republic Act 10592 or the law on good conduct time allowance. He also voted to affirm the legality of the declaration of martial law in Mindanao following the attack in Marawi City by the Maute terrorist group; and the closure of Boracay Island to pave the way for its rehabilitation.
He also voted to junk a petition on same sex marriage filed by lawyer Nicardo Jesus Falcis III and the writ of kalikasan petition filed by the Integrated Bar of the Philippines and fishermen from Zambales and Palawan seeking to compel the government to protect and preserve the environment in the West Philippine Sea.
Peralta also voted in the SC decision meting a P920-million fine each to water concessionaires Maynilad and Manila Water as well as the decision requiring the Office of the Solicitor General to furnish petitioners in the petition questioning the legality of the government’s anti-drug war.
Before this, he also voted in the decision declaring unconstitutional the Priority Development Assistance Fund or the “pork barrel” as well as the distribution of Cojuangco-owned Hacienda Luisita’s 4,915-hectare farmlands to farmer-beneficiaries in Tarlac.
Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo said Peralta has served the judiciary for more than three decades in various capacities: as a trial court judge, associate justice and presiding justice of the Sandiganbayan, and associate justice of the High Court.
“He made many landmark decisions that reverberate to this time, which include the imposition of the death penalty on a policeman who used his service firearm to shoot an 11-year-old boy while flying his kite on a rooftop in People vs. Fallorina; the first conviction for plunder involving a cashier of the Bureau of Internal Revenue in People vs. Manalili; the first and only conviction of qualified bribery under Article 211-A of the Revised Penal Code, as amended, involving a substantial number of police officers in the case of suspected foreign drug-traffickers,” he said.
Panelo also said Peralta convicted “the most number of accused involved in big-time drug cases and other serious crimes.”
Peralta started his career in government when he was elected barangay councilman in Fairview, Quezon City in 1986 until he was appointed Third Assistant City Fiscal of Laoag City in 1987. He later served in various capacities in the judicial branch. He was promoted to the Sandiganbayan in 2002, and became its presiding justice in 2008, until his appointment as the 162nd Associate Justice of the Supreme Court in January 2009.
Peralta, son former Digos City, Davao del Sur and Manila Court of First Instance Judge Elviro Lazo Peralta and public school teacher Catalina Madarang Peralta, is an alumnus of the University of Santo Tomas Faculty of Civil Law. He obtained his undergraduate degree in Economics from the Colegio de San Juan de Letran.
He is married to Court of Appeals Associate Justice Fernanda C. Lampas-Peralta, a certified public accountant-lawyer, with whom he has four children: lawyer Dorothy, and musicians John Christopher, Timothy John, and John Isaac.