“De Castro will have to credibly address uncomplimentary views about her independence and impartiality.”
By RONALYN V. OLEA
MANILA — An alliance of civil libertarians said the appointment of Teresita De Castro as Supreme Court Chief Justice “can only erode what remains of the promise of the rule of law and the cause of justice.”
In a statement, the Movement Against Tyranny (MAT) tagged De Castro as President Rodrigo Duterte’s disciple for her track record of deciding in favor of Malacañang.
De Castro was picked by Duterte over Associate Justices Diosdado Peralta and Lucas Bersamin as the country’s top magistrate. She will serve as chief justice until her retirement in October this year.
De Castro is one of the associate justices who voted to oust former Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno, who was declared by Duterte as his enemy.
The new top justice also voted to keep Duterte’s critic, Senator Leila de Lima, in jail.
De Castro was also among those who decided to uphold the constitutionality of Duterte’s martial law and suspension of the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus in Mindanao.
De Castro also towed Duterte’s line when she voted for the burial of former dictator Ferdinand Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani (LNMB).
Malacañang did not attempt to hide its glee. Presidential spokesperson Harry Roque said in a statement that De Castro is the “best choice” for the post. “Bravo!” Roque said. “Proven competence, known nationalist and a streak of being a judicial activist!”
For MAT, however, De Castro’s appointment is “perhaps the most brazen display of partiality, vindictiveness and selfishness by a sitting justice of the highest court.”
“It is not clear what Duterte hopes to accomplish by appointing De Castro to the shortest Chief Justice stint in the history of the Philippines. But what’s certain is that any tyrant desires a judiciary headed by a magistrate who is loyal to him and his agenda,” MAT said.
The College Editors Guild of the Philippines (CEGP) agrees. “Teresita de Castro’s appointment as Chief Justice proves Duterte’s intensifying exercise of despotism to secure his position as a fascist dictator wannabe,” said Jose Mari Callueng, CEGP national president, in a statement.
For a group of progressive lawyers, the new Chief Justice “should answer the negative views on her leadership.”