Associate Justice Peralta Says Track Record Enough To Make Him Chief Justice

Despite not being a bar top-notcher or an honor student, Associate Justice Diosdado Peralta said his experience and track record are more than enough for him to land the judiciary’s top post.

“I think, I was able to compensate with the work that I had as a public prosecutor, as a judge, as an associate justice of the Sandiganbayan, as a presiding justice, associate justice of the Supreme Court (SC), as a lecturer and chairman of several committees, I think they are more than enough to compensate with what they say that I do not deserve (to become chief justice),” Peralta, the most senior nominee, said during the public interview held by the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) for nominees for Chief Justice.

Peralta also became emotional shortly after responding to JBC members’ perception that he is arrogant.

He also explained the rationale behind decisions he wrote, particularly on a ruling that said drug charges for minor amounts of narcotics may be pleaded down, and the controversial implementing rules of the Good Conduct and Time Allowance (GCTA) Law.

Peralta said the decision limits the possibility of entering a plea bargain to a lesser offense if the recovered narcotics are less or very minimal, adding that it does not apply to cases involving large volumes of drugs.

On the criticism that the ruling stymied the war on drugs, Peralta explained that the SC “came up with the frame work on the plea bargaining after the consultation with the Department of Justice, the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency, and the policemen” on the possibility and coverage of plea bargaining in drug cases.

“The problem in our second level courts your honor is that there (are) 100,000 drug cases filed before the courts, and 70 percent of these cases involve Sec. 5 (of Republic Act 9165 or the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002), which is the sale, delivery and transport of dangerous drugs. 90 percent of this 70 percent are sale of less than 1 gram of dangerous drugs or less than three sticks of marijuana so we all agreed that we can enter. Most of the cases are less than one, so we agreed on plea bargaining under Sec. 5 only when the subject matter is less than 1 gram and in marijuana, when it is less than 10 grams,” Peralta said in response to the question of JBC member and retired SC Associate Justice Noel Tijam on the matter.

“Akala nila kasama 1 kilo (of drugs), one-half kilo kasama na, hindi po (There is a perception that the ruling applies also when it involves 1 kilo or one-half kilo when it does not),” Peralta added.

He said being procedural in nature, his decision cannot be given a retroactive effect, unlike the decision in the GCTA law, which involves the computation of penalties for convicts, which under the Constitution must be given retroactive effect if favorable to the accused.

Peralta, also a law professor, said he would work for continued capability building for would-be judges, as well as law students.

In terms of administration, Peralta said if appointed, he would eye the automation of court processes when possible, including working for the exclusion from the Salary Standardization Law of court employees to address the lack of competent personnel, such as court stenographers, who tend to leave court positions for better-paying employment in the private sector.

Peralta added that he is eyeing the streamlining of the court’s procurement processes by creating a permanent public bidding committee to replace the ad hoc body composed of heads of the different sub-offices of the SC.

The ad hoc system, Peralta said, tends to become an added burden to the heads of offices.

Prior to his appointment to the SC in 2009, Peralta served as associate justice of the Sandiganbayan in 2002 and later became its presiding justice in 2008.

He also served as judge of the Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 95, which handled heinous crimes.

Aside from Peralta, other justices who accepted their nomination for Chief Justice were Estela Perlas-Bernabe, Andres Reyes, and Jose Reyes Jr.

Chief Justice Lucas Bersamin will mandatorily retire from the service upon turning 70 on October 18. (PNA)