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Duterte defends decision to name Bersamin as Chief Justice

Rodrigo Duterte

President Rodrigo Duterte (File photo by MARK SCHIEFELBEIN / AP)

President Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday defended his decision to appoint Lucas Bersamin as the new Chief Justice of the Supreme Court as criticisms pile up for it allegedly broke the judiciary’s seniority tradition.

The President said Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio’s initial decision before to decline his nomination as chief magistrate still stood, which was why he picked Bersamin whom he called the “next in rank.”

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“Carpio, [Diosdado] Peralta, Bersamin — lima man ka pangalan ang ila gihatag sa ako [I was given five names]. I chose Bersamin,” the President said in his speech in Tubod, Lanao Del Norte.

“Si Carpio, ingon siya adto na dili siya mudawat [he said he would not accept], so [I chose the] next in rank,” he added.

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Carpio previously declined his nomination for the top justice post when it was declared vacant following former Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno’s removal in May.

Carpio explained that he would not want to “benefit” from a decision he had voted against.

He has served as acting Chief Justice twice, following the ouster of Sereno in May and impeachment of the late Renato Corona in 2012.

Carpio is the most senior among the sitting magistrate of the Supreme Court and is now on his 17th year in the high tribunal.

Preceding him was Peralta, who was appointed at the Supreme Court in January 2009.

Meanwhile, Bersamin, 69, is the third most senior justice of the Supreme Court.

He graduated from the University of the East College of Law and placed ninth in the 1973 bar exam.

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Carpio has been a vocal critic of the President’s stance in the disputed areas of the West Philippine Sea.

He was also a member of the Philippine panel that won the Philippines’ arbitration case against China in 2016.

In the same speech, the President also took a swipe at Carpio for asking him to insist to China the arbitration ruling.

“What do you want me to do? Arbitration? So I’ll order my military and the police to go there in Palawan and shoot it out? It will be a massacre,” the President said. /atm

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