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New chief justice vows to maintain judicial independence

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Newly appointed Supreme Court Chief Justice Teresita De Castro answers questions from reporters during her first press briefing as a chief magistrate on Aug. 28. -- PHILSTAR/EDD GUMBAN

Chief Justice Teresita Leonardo-De Castro assured that the Supreme Court will maintain its independence under her few weeks stint as the top magistrate.

In a press conference held after she took her oath before the other justices on Tuesday, Aug. 28, Ms. De Castro pointed out that she has not met with President Rodrigo R. Duterte who appointed her last Aug. 25, 2018.

“I would like to inform everyone that up to this time, I have not met the President…I did not approach him whether directly or through anybody. So he appointed me without knowing me personally. So I don’t think that the president will do anything that will impair the independence of the judiciary,” she said during her first press conference.

“We would like to express our appreciation to the President has that strong political will to see to it that the merit system which is the hallmark of public appointment in public service is followed, and upholding the time-honored tradition of seniority in the Supreme Court,” Ms. De Castro added.

Meanwhile, Senate Minority Leader Franklin M. Drilon released a statement urging the chief justice to inhibit from political cases “to uphold the integrity” of the Supreme Court.

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“All questions, issues, and doubts surrounding the appointment of Chief Justice Teresita Leonardo-de Castro, particularly with regard to her impartiality, can only be addressed if the newly-appointed chief magistrate refrains from participating in any political case pending before the court,” Mr. Drilon said in a statement, Tuesday.

Ms. de Castro’s appointment followed the filing of impeachment cases by lawmakers against her and six other Associate Justices who voted in favor of the ouster of Maria Lourdes P.A. Sereno as chief justice.

“Whether she can do as much, set a trend, or influence the Supreme Court, during her five weeks tenure as Chief Justice is something that is difficult to expect given such limitation. What else can she do within her term?” Mr. Drilon also said. — Vann Marlo M. Villegas and Charmaine A. Tadalan

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