Wednesday, 28 November 2018

Chief Justice Bersamin: "I owe Duterte nothing"

The new Chief Justice of the Supreme Court on Wednesday assured its independence from undue influence even if it would come from President Rodrigo Duterte.

Chief Justice Lucas Bersamin said he didn't owe Duterte anything aside from his thanks.

"Although I owe the President a lot of gratitude for reposing his trust and confidence in me, beyond that I hope the President pardons me when I say that thanking you Mr. President is not going to mean that I owe you anything," Bersamin told ANC.

Bersamin said the Supreme Court, despite being in the "least dangerous branch," would not be afraid to speak out if it became necessary.

Bersamin will be at the helm of the highest court in the country until he reaches the mandatory retirement age of 70 on October 18 next year.

"Ang gusto niyo sabihin sa judicial independence ay lalabanan namin ang nakaupo o lalabanan namin 'yung two other branches of the government, but that is not the concept of judicial independence... the concept of judicial independence is you are resistant to undue influence," Bersamin said.

Judicial independence is not invalidated when a judge makes a decision in favor of one side, Bersamin said.

"You may call these the president's cases and I have voted in their favor but at the time I made these decisions, I saw the merits that were submitted to us," Bersamin said.

"When the judge finally takes the side of one against the other, that doesn't mean that the judge is partial to the one who won. 'Yan po ang dynamics ng pag-upo bilang isang hukom," he added.

Some of the cases Bersamin voted in favor were the burial of the late former President Ferdinand Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani and the petition that sought to expel Maria Lourdes Sereno as chief justice over an alleged failure to file some mandatory asset declarations.

He also voted for the detention of Senator Leila De Lima over drug charges and the declaration and extension of martial law in Mindanao.

Furthermore, Bersamin said that he did not personally know President Rodrigo Duterte.

"I am not even going to tell you that I voted for him because I have another candidate at the time of the election," Bersamin said.



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