Looking for the next Chief Justice

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    THE Supreme Court will again undergo a reorganization with the coming early retirement of Chief Justice Diosdado Peralta next month — on March 27, 2021 to be exact — a year ahead of his mandatory retirement.

    On the day of his birthday-retirement, Chief Justice Peralta would have served as the highest magistrate of the land for one year and five months, having been appointed by President Rodrigo Duterte in October, 2019.

    Nearing his final day in office, Peralta said in a speech that the Supreme Court uses its “constitutionally enshrined rule-making power to promulgate rules of procedure that are intended to allow more meaningful access to justice.” His guiding principle which he adopted when he took over the reins of the High Tribunal is “to be mindful of the need to make the justice system one that is genuine and accessible to the people.” Peralta stressed: “It is the path I choose to take, and it is a path that has served me well.”

    ‘… we all remember what happened in the recent past, on how wrong choices resulted in divisive impeachment processes that marred our political and judicial institutions.’

    While one year and five months is very short to initiate reforms in such a high-level branch of government as the judiciary, Chief Justice Peralta embarked on three major programs: simplifying court procedures and processes, promotion of a disciplined and responsive judiciary, and de-clogging the court dockets.

    Other innovations the Supreme Court implemented under Peralta are measures to ease work on small claims cases, continuous trial of criminal cases, administrative search and inspection under the Philippine Competition Act, and the rule of procedure for admiralty cases.

    While there are other reforms Peralta initiated in office, such as those involving remote notarization of paper documents, video conferencing and intellectual property cases, one reform that stood out is the formal organization of the Judicial Integrity Board (JIB) to strengthen the integrity of the judiciary and prevent corrupt practices at the bench. These are useful reforms taken in a relatively short time under Peralta’s leadership, and it will do well for whoever will succeed him to continue and even build on these gains.

    The Judicial and Bar Council and Malacañang are busy at this time looking for a justice to fill in Peralta’s shoes, and they better be correct and impeccable in this task because we all remember what happened in the recent past, on how wrong choices resulted in divisive impeachment processes that marred our political and judicial institutions.

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