Photo Courtesy of Supreme Court Public Information Office
Finally, the Chief Justice Teresita Leonardo-De Castro has spoken after people have various reaction on her selection as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.
In her speech during her first flag ceremony as head of the Supreme Court this morning, the Chief Justice said, “People outside would like to judge us by what they see or hear from afar but it is us, the justices and officials of the Court, who know what is happening inside the Supreme Court and we should be left alone.”
De Castro also asserted judicial independence by saying, “We demand respect from the other co-equal branches of the government.” She added that respect not only means respecting the individual members of the court but its decisions as well.”
“We have to keep in mind that the other members of the co-equal and independent branches of the government should understand that based on our constitutional order, the decisions reached by the justices of the Supreme Court whether unanimously or by majority vote must be respected,” she added.
“We must be left alone to decide the fate of this institution without interference. We more than anyone else will be affected if we decide wrongly a case which will affect the integrity and the fate of this institution,” said De Castro.
The Chief Justice was welcomed not only by her colleagues but by Supreme Court employees who called a “Blue Monday” event to symbolize the return of peace in the judiciary. The event was initiated by the Supreme Court Employees Association (SCEA), the same group that initiated the “Black Friday” and “Red Monday” protest against Maria Lourdes Sereno.
De Castro explained that the Supreme Court was not about the Chief Justice because the chief magistrate is only the first but “equal to the other justices of the Supreme Court.”
She also recapitulated her ardent desire in restoring respect amongst members of the Supreme Court as she stressed that the High Court’s rulings are issued based on the collective action of its members.
It was De Castro who accused the former chief justice Sereno of violating the collegiality by making unilateral decisions for the court that led to her ouster and was eventually replaced by her as Chief Justice.
She thanked all her colleagues and the employees of the Supreme Court for their showing their resiliency and dedication to their duties by saying, “The first lesson that we learned from this is with the support of the officials and employees of the court, we can surmount every obstacle because you are standing solidly behind the justices, the justices were able to weather the storm that was besetting the court during those times, so we thank you for this.”
In closing De Castro said, “The Chief Justice is the first that equal nevertheless with each of the associate justice of the court. No one can claim superiority over the others and we decide for cases whether judicial or administrative with one vote each.”
Then she added her appreciation for everyone by saying, “Your unconditional support spelled a difference in the understanding what the Supreme Court is aspiring for during the time that we went through the turbulent months here in the court.”
Chief Justice De Castro’s term will end on October 8 when she reaches 70 years old which is the mandatory retirement. She has the shortest term in the history of the Philippines to hold the position of Chief magistrate.