Search begins for next Chief Justice

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, January 14) — The Judicial and Bar Council has opened the application for the next head of the Supreme Court, with around two months left before Chief Justice Diosdado Peralta's early retirement.

The JBC announced on Thursday that Peralta's retirement was approved on Jan. 5, after he signified last month his intention to bow out of the high court on his 69th birthday this March 27.

The council said it will be accepting applications for the position until Feb. 15, 2021. Individuals may apply or be recommended.

The five most senior magistrates next to Peralta are automatically nominated for the post, but they must manifest their acceptance of the nomination. These include three appointees of President Benigno Aquino III: Associate Justices Estela Perlas Bernabe, Marvic Leonen, and Alfredo Benjamin Caguioa. The other two are appointees of President Rodrigo Duterte: Associate Justices Alexander Gesmundo and Ramon Hernando.

Under JBC rules, applicants will undergo comprehensive medical examinations, psychological and psychiatric evaluations, written evaluative examinations, and personal interviews. An applicant should obtain the affirmative vote of at least four members of the JBC to be considered for nomination.

The JBC will provide a shortlist of at least three candidates for Peralta's replacement, which will be submitted to the President who will have the final say on the appointment.

Duterte named Peralta as top magistrate in October 2019. He is entitled to the post for two years and five months, or until he reaches the mandatory retirement age of 70 in March 2022. He was the third to be appointed by the President after the historic ouster of Maria Lourdes Sereno, who was supposed to serve a two-decade term until 2030.

Meanwhile, the JBC is also looking for the replacement of Deputy Ombudsman for Mindanao Rodolfo Elman, whose term ends this March 13. Deadline for applications for this position is on March 1.