The next ombudsman? A look at Justice Teresita de Castro

May 7, 2018 - 5:08 PM
Associate Justice SC Teresita J. Leonardo De- Castro speaks at Congress during the Continuation of hearing on probable cause for impeachement of CHief Justice Lourdes Sereno last January 29, 2018. (STAR/Michael Varcas)

Much to the chagrin of her detractors, Supreme Court Associate Justice Teresita de Castro has been nominated to be the next ombudsman.

De Castro was nominated by former Supreme Court justice Arturo Brion, who sent a letter to the Judicial Bar Council, citing her more than four decades-long service in the judiciary as basis for his recommendation.

De Castro as of this writing has yet to accept the nomination, a pre-requisite to its finalization.

The schism with Sereno

The loudest opposition to the move has come from supporters of Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, whom de Castro has been known to be critical of.

De Castro in November 2017 testified against Sereno in the impeachment proceedings filed by lawyer Larry Gadon. The senior justice had to emphasize that her testimony was “not ruled by emotions.”

The brewing tension spilled into the public last March 2018 when Sereno gave a rousing speech in front of the Philippine Women Judges Association, an organization de Castro headed.

The two reportedly ignored each other and de Castro chastised Sereno following the speech. Since then, the two justices’ comments about each other have been more publicized.

Sereno, following the quo warranto proceedings against her appointment, said that de Castro will never being able to forgive her for accepting the chief justice position.

De Castro was part of the 2012 JBC shortlist for the chief justice position, from which Sereno was eventually selected by former president Benigno Aquino III.

Sereno was chosen over both de Castro and Justice Antonio Carpio, who was then the acting chief justice.

The appointment made her the second-youngest chief magistrate in the history of the judiciary.

It came as no surprise that de Castro was one of the five justices Sereno petitioned to inhibit from the quo warranto proceedings for alleged bias and impartiality.

De Castro’s law career

Those opposing de Castro’s nomination believe that the appointment was impelled by political agenda rather than a recognition of her ability.

Despite doubts if she is qualified, de Castro’s career in the legal field is long and storied.

De Castro was appointed to the high court in December 2007 by Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. According her Supreme Court profile, she finished both her Bachelor of Arts and Bachelor of Laws at the University of the Philippines.

Her career in public service began after she passed the bar, having worked as a clerk in the Office of the Clerk of Court of the Supreme Court in 1973.

She then became a staff member of the late Chief Justice Fred Ruiz Castro and later rose to Assistant State Chief Council I upon moving to the Department of Justice.

She also served as an international peace negotiator for both the Corazon Aquino and Ramos administrations.

She rejoined the judiciary after being appointed as a presiding justice of the Sandiganbayan in 1997.

In 2005, she received the Chief Justice Hilario G. Davide Judicial Reform Award.

Shortly before her appointment to the high court, de Castro, while still with the Sandiganbayan, chaired the special division of the anti-graft court that convicted former president Joseph Estrada of plunder in 2007.

However, De Castro, as a Supreme Court justice, voted to junk the petition filed by Alfredo Lim to prevent Estrada from running as mayor of the City of Manila.