Philippine bishops slam new chief justice pick

Critics say top judge's appointment was a reward for supporting moves to oust her predecessor
Philippine bishops slam new chief justice pick

Supreme Court employees dramatize their support for the ouster of former chief justice Maria Lourdes Sereno outside the Supreme Court building in Manila. (Photo by Angie de Silva)

Catholic bishops in the Philippines have criticized the appointment of the new chief justice, who many have accused of being instrumental in the ouster of her predecessor.

Manila Auxiliary Bishop Broderick Pabillo went as far as saying that the Supreme Court has fallen to "a new level of disgrace."

The prelate said the appointment of Justice Teresita de Castro as the country's top judge was a "political move" that will not improve the delivery of justice. 

"With her record of political opportunism ... what good can she offer to the cause of justice?" said the bishop.

The presidential palace defended De Castro's appointment, saying she was the most senior among the members of the Supreme Court.

The opposition, however, viewed her appointment as a reward for supporting ouster of former chief justice, Maria Lourdes Sereno, who was removed in May.

De Castro was one of five Supreme Court justices who testified against Sereno as allies of President Rodrigo Duterte in Congress sought to impeach the then chief justice early this year.

The president named De Castro as new chief justice although she has only about six weeks left to serve because she is scheduled to retire on Oct. 8 when she turns 70.

Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said calling De Castro's appointment a reward is "senseless."

Bishop Ruperto Santos of Balanga said De Castro's appointment is still tainted with political color. "It could be an act of gratitude," said the prelate.

The bishops, however, said they respect the president's decision even as they voiced concern over the independence of the Supreme Court with a chief justice who is beholden to the administration.

"We pray and hope that Chief Justice Teresita de Castro will be true to what she fought for, the independence of Supreme Court, and would never be beholden to any political party or person who appointed her," said Bishop Santos.

Opposition legislators in the Lower House of Congress are, however, working to start impeachment proceedings against De Castro and six other justices for reportedly usurping the power of the legislature to remove impeachable officials like former chief justice Sereno

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