MANILA, APRIL 3, 2009 (STAR) By Edu Punay - President Arroyo has appointed Court of Appeals (CA) Associate Justice Lucas Bersamin as associate justice of the Supreme Court (SC), replacing Justice Adolfo Azcuna who retired from the judiciary last February.

SC spokesman Jose Midas Marquez announced the appointment of Bersamin as the 163rd justice of the High Court after receiving the official letter from the Palace at around 11 a.m.

Bersamin was reportedly Malacañang’s choice to replace Azcuna.

Earlier, Bersamin admitted that he is close to President Arroyo’s cousin, Erlinda de Leon, and her husband, Carlos de Leon. However, he has vowed not to let his closeness with the two impinge on his judicial independence.

His bid to the SC is also supported by Associate Justice Diosdado Peralta, who was appointed to the High Court as replacement of retired Justice Ruben Reyes last January.

Bersamin was also the candidate chosen by the eight-man Judicial and Bar Council (JBC), which endorsed him to the Palace last month. The other choices of the JBC were Court of Appeals Associate Justices Martin Villarama Jr. and Hakim Abdulwahid and Sandiganbayan Associate Justice Francisco Villaruz.

In a statement, the new SC justice expressed gratitude for his appointment.

“I feel honored and humbled by this great opportunity given to a humble public servant that I have been. I am very grateful to the Supreme Court, the Judicial and Bar Council, and President Arroyo for believing that I am worthy of the trust to be among the 15 wise magistrates of the highest court of the land,” he said.

Bersamin, 60, also vowed “to serve as a jurist mindful of the great tradition that the Supreme Court has to serve God, country, and people.”

He is set to take his oath of office this morning before Chief Justice Reynato Puno, according to Marquez.

Prior to his SC appointment, Bersamin served as CA Associate Justice since March 2003. Before that, he was the Presiding Judge of the Quezon City Regional Trial Court, Branch 96, a post which he held since November 1986. He was engaged in private legal practice before he was appointed as judge.

He was also recipient of the Chief Justice Jose Abad Santos Award (Outstanding RTC Judge for 2002) during the 11th Judicial Excellence Awards (JEA). In the 2000 JEA, he bagged the Best Decision in Civil Law and Best Decision in Criminal Law awards.

He finished his law studies at the University of the East in 1973 and placed ninth in the Bar examinations given that same year with an average of 86.3 percent.

He got 100 percent in criminal law, one of the eight Bar subjects. He is a fellow at the Commonwealth Judicial Education Institute in Dalhousie University in Halifax, Canada.

He is a member of the Sub-Committee on Evidence of the Supreme Court’s Committee on Revision of the Rules of Court. He is also a member of the CA Committee on Rules and the Planning Committee, Remedial Law & CriminalLaw of the UP Law Center-Institute of Judicial Administration.

He is a lecturer and acting chair of the Remedial Law Department of the Philippine Judicial Academy, the SC’s education arm. He is also a professor at the Ateneo School of Law and UE College of Law. He was special lecturer at the College of Law, University of Cebu in 2006. He is both Bar reviewer and a professor at the University of Santo Tomas Faculty of Civil Law.

Born on Oct. 18, 1949 in Bangued, Abra, Justice Bersamin is married to Aurora Bagares-Bersamin, with whom he has four children.

Limkaichong stays - Supreme Court Updated April 02, 2009 12:00 AM

MANILA, Philippines - The Supreme Court (SC) yesterday upheld the proclamation of Negros Oriental first district Rep. Jocelyn Limkaichong and dismissed all three electoral complaints over her citizenship for lack of jurisdiction.

Voting 12-1, the High Court ruled that it was not the proper forum to determine whether or not Limkaichong is a natural-born Filipino citizen – the main issue in petitions seeking nullification of proclamation of the lady solon in the 2007 polls filed by businessman Louis Biraogo, concerned citizen Renald Villando and her rival Olivia Paras.

In the 37-page decision penned by Associate Justice Diosdado Peralta, the Court said that questions concerning qualifications of representatives should be filed with the House of Representatives Electoral Tribunal (HRET), but it did not remand the case to the latter.

In upholding the proclamation of Limkaichong on May 25, 2007, the SC also did not rule on the resolution of the Commission on Elections

(Comelec) favoring the lady solon’s disqualification.

The high tribunal only said that the Comelec did not have jurisdiction on the case and granted the petition of the congressman and set aside the joint resolution issued by the Comelec Second Division on May 17, 2007 disqualifying her as a candidate for a congressional seat in Negros Oriental.

“The Court has invariably held that once a winning candidate has been proclaimed, taken his oath and assumed office as a member of the House of Representatives, the Comelec’s jurisdiction over election contests relating to his election, returns and qualifications ends, and the HRET’s own jurisdiction begins,” stated the decision.

The SC further explained that Limkaichong timely filed with the Comelec her motion for reconsideration as well as for the lifting of the directive suspending her proclamation, which in effect suspended the implementation of the May 17, 2007 joint resolution.

The validity of Limkaichong’s proclamation, added the Court, is also in accordance with Comelec Resolution No. 8062 issued on May 18, 2007, which adopted the policy-guideline of not suspending the proclamation of winning candidates with pending disqualification cases (which) shall be without prejudice to the continuation of the hearing and resolution of the involved cases.

Associate Justice Prebisterio Velasco Jr. dissented. He believes the Comelec resolution disqualifying Limkaichong was final and executory since she failed to file an appeal within 10 days before the HRET.

But the other 12 other justices ruled that the 10-day rule to file an appeal with the HRET on the Comelec decision does not apply in Limkaichong’s case, which involved citizenship issue that is “a continuing requirement.”

Also, the SC did not give credence to the arguments of the petitioners who sought the implementation of the Comelec’s May 17 resolution.

The petitioners argued that the HRET cannot acquire jurisdiction over Limkaichong’s case since her proclamation was tainted with irregularity.

But the Court held that “any allegations as to the invalidity of the proclamation will not prevent the HRET from assuming jurisdiction over all matters essential to a member’s qualification to sit in the House of Representatives.”

The Court noted that even after Limkaichong’s proclamation, the petitioners failed to file an election protest before the HRET within the required 10-day period.

However, Limkaichong’s rival may still question her proclamation despite the lapse of the prescriptive period as the Court noted that under the 1998 HRET rules, the 10-day period does not apply to disqualification cases based on citizenship.

“Members of the House of Representatives must be natural-born citizens not only at the time of their election but during their entire tenure.

Being a continuing requirement, one who assails a member’s citizenship or lack of it may still question the same at any time, the ten-day prescriptive period notwithstanding,” the Court said.

On the other hand, questions on the citizenship of Limkaichong’s father, according to the Court, may be brought before the proper court in accordance with Section 18 of Commonwealth Act No. 473.

Limkaichong ran for the position of representative of the 1st district of Negros Oriental under the banner of the administration Lakas- CMD party in 2007.

She won by 7,746 votes over her next rival, Olivia Paras, wife of former Rep. Jacinto Paras. The third placer, former congressman Jerome Paras, lost by about 40,000 votes.

Limkaichong had repeatedly insisted that she is a natural-born Filipino citizen since at the time of her birth on Nov. 9, 1959, her father was already a naturalized Filipino citizen.

The 1987 Constitution requires that candidates for Congress should be natural-born Filipino citizens.

The Comelec on May 17, 2007 ruled that Limkaichong is not a natural-born Filipino since her father, Julio Ong Sy, failed to acquire Filipino citizenship.

Early 2009, the controversial citizenship case triggered rumors of impeachment moves against Chief Justice Reynato Puno, whom Biraogo accused of sitting on the case. Biraogo obtained a leaked copy of the draft ruling dated July 15, 2008.

The SC last February found that retired Associate Justice Ruben Reyes was responsible for the leak.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

All rights reserved