President Rodrigo Duterte defended his appointment of Senior Associate Justice Teresita Leonardo-De Castro as the country’s top magistrate amid criticisms by the opposition.
Critics noted that De Castro has only two months to serve as chief justice as she is set to retire in October when she reaches the mandatory retirement age of 70.
“Why appoint someone who will only sit … for less than two months? What public purpose does it serve? What public value does it create? The appointment leaves much to be desired,” Sen. Francis Pangilinan said.
Some say the appointment is De Castro’s political reward for voting in favor of the quo warranto petition that ousted Maria Lourdes Sereno from the Supreme Court.
However, Duterte insists there is no politics involved in the appointment and that his decision was based on seniority and merit system.
“And it will be the same for all justices, not only De Castro — all of them. Unless of course, they refuse or maybe they would opt to retire, because not much time for them to serve is left,” he said. “In the military, that’s the custom. In the Civil Service, no political colors included. That is not allowed. So, merit system.”
De Castro is the most senior among the members of the Supreme Court. She was appointed in 2007 by former president and now House Speaker Gloria Arroyo.
She also served as Sandiganbayan presiding justice in 2004. — Rosalie Coz
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