Incoming President Rodrigo Duterte is expected to gain considerable clout at the Supreme Court in his six-year presidency that starts on June 30 with his appointment of 12 new SC justices.
By 2022, the 12 new justices will have replaced an equal number, including two who will retire during the election ban on appointments in that year.
The retirement of the two SC justices will give Duterte a chance to make “midnight appointments.”
By 2019 alone, the presumptive President will have a majority of 10 appointees in the High Court.
There are 15 justices in the SC and 8 of them constitute actual majority.
Mandatory retirement age for SC justices is 70.
Appointments are made upon recommendation of the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) with a shortlist of names sent to the President.
During his term from 2010 to 2016, outgoing President Benigno Aquino 3rd appointed six SC justices.
Aquino was supposed to have only five appointees but Justice Martin Villarama Jr. deciding to vacate his seat earlier than scheduled gave the President a chance to make one more appointment.
Then-President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was able to make 21 appointments to the SC during her terms (2001-2004 and 2004-2010).
Before 2016 ends, Duterte will have to appoint the two new justices in view of the retirement this December of Justice Jose Portugal Perez (born December 14, 1946) and Justice Arturo Brion (born December 29, 1946).
By next year, two classmates and fraternity brothers of Duterte from the San Beda College of Law will have also retired–Justice Bienvenido Reyes (born July 6, 1947) and Justice Jose Catral Mendoza (August 13, 1947).
By 2018, another two justices will have retired too, namely, Justice Presbitero Velasco Jr. (born August 8, 1948) and Justice Teresita Leonardo-de Castro (born October 8, 1948).
Four more will have retired in 2019, giving Duterte a total of 10 appointees These are Justice Antonio Carpio (October 26, 1949), Justice Mariano del Castillo (born July 29, 1949), Justice Francis Jardeleza (September 26, 1949) and Justice Lucas Bersamin (October 8, 1949).
“Midnight appointments” can be made by Duterte before his term ends in 2022 because of the retirement of two more SC justices in that year–Justice Diosdado Peralta (born March 27, 1952 and Justice Estela Perlas-Bernabe (born May 14, 1952).
“Midnight appointments” do not cover those in the High Court in view of a landmark decision in a case of Arturo de Castro against the JBC.
In this case, the SC en banc ruled that the appointment of SC justices is exempted from the appointments ban during election periods.
This paved the way for then-President Arroyo to appoint Renato Corona as Chief Justice.
The SC en banc with a vote of 9-1-2-3 on March 17, 2010 ruled that the tribunal is not covered by the election ban.