President Rodrigo Duterte is likely to appoint former senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago as the new Supreme Court (SC) chief justice, thus replacing Maria Lourdes Sereno. The said offer to tough-talking, veteran senator comes after the president responded this Friday, August 26 to Sereno’s comment on his statement about warrantless arrests.
According to our source inside the Malacañang who wish not to be identified, President Duterte has come up with an idea to stop the Supreme Court from questioning his statements. And because he has the power to appoint the new chief justice, he allegedly thought of replacing Sereno with Defensor-Santiago, who is known to be his good friend.
At some point during the recent 2016 presidential election campaign, both presidentiables were heard to giving compliments to each other. In fact, Duterte and Defensor-Santiago hugged each other before the start of the first leg of the PiliPinas Debates 2016, held last February 21 in Cagayan de Oro. That gesture then led to the so-called DuRiam love team.
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As we all know, Miriam Defensor-Santiago suffered a controversial lost over Fidel V. Ramos during the 1992 presidential elections. But despite losing again in 1998, she has the most number of bills made and laws passed in the Senate history. Her final term officially ended last July 1, and under the Constitution, she cannot run for senator again.
On the other hand, Maria Lourdes Sereno was appointed as SC chief justice in August 2012 by then-President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III. She replaced Renato Corono (now deceased) who was removed from office after being convicted via an impeachment trial. That time, Defensor-Santiago was nominated to replace him, but she declined the offer.
Also known as the Iron Lady of Asia, Miriam Defensor-Santiago successfully defeated Stage 4 lung cancer, and has returned to private life. Nevertheless, our source told us that President Duterte offered her to be further treated in a world-trusted cancer treatment center in Philadelphia, USA, and that she will consider his offer to replace Sereno.
Update: August 28, 2016; 2:30 pm
For clarification purposes, here is what the law states on the qualifications and appointment of a Supreme Court chief justice.
Article VIII, Section 7.1 of the 1987 Constitution states that “No person shall be appointed Member of the Supreme Court unless he is a natural-born citizen of the Philippines, at least forty years of age, and must have been for fifteen years or more a judge of a lower court or engaged in the practice of law in the Philippines.
Section 9 states that, “the Members of the Supreme Court shall be appointed by the President from a list of at least three nominees prepared by the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) for every vacancy.” The law also states that the retirement age of a Supreme Court chief justice is 70 years old, while Miriam Defensor-Santiago turned 71 last June 15.
Therefore, a Supreme Court chief justice can only be replaced once he or she has retired, has been ousted via impeachment, or has passed away. It then follows that President Duterte cannot just replace CJ Sereno with any person he likes, even if the public is very much in favor of the appointee.