A Supreme Court (SC) seat that shall be occupied by the first appointee of President Rodrigo Duterte has been officially declared vacant.
The vacancy came about as SC Associate Justice Jose Portugal Perez on Thursday stepped down from his post after 45 years of service.
The High Court held its special en banc session on Tuesday morning to honor Perez, who reached the mandatory retirement age of 70 on December 14.
The Judicial and Bar Council has already screened and shortlisted five magistrates to vie for the Perez vacancy.
These are Court of Appeals Justice Jose Reyes with 7 votes; CA Justices Japar Dimaampao, Apolinario Bruselas and Sandiganbayan Justice Samuel Martires with 5 votes each; and CA Presiding Justice Andres Reyes with 4.
Perez was appointed as the 167th Associate Justice on December 26, 2009, replacing Associate Justice Leonardo Quisumbing.
Perez joined the Supreme Court on December 1, 1971 as a technical assistant right after graduating from the University of the Philippines College of Law and taking the Bar examinations.
In his speech, he noted that he had served 15 chief justices throughout his career, starting with the country’s 10th Chief Justice, Roberto Concepcion, and leading up to Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, the 24th Chief Justice and the first woman to hold the top post.
Perez started his career as a legal assistant in the Office of the Reporter in 1972, a confidential attorney in the Office of Chief Justice Fred Ruiz Castro in 1977, a supervising attorney in the Office of the Chief Attorney in 1980 and a Deputy Clerk of Court and Chief of the Office of the Reporter in 1987.
Later on, the magistrate joined the newly reorganized Office of the Court Administrator as Assistant Court Administrator in 1996, and steadily got promoted as a Deputy Court Administrator in 2001, and a Court Administrator in 2008 until his appointment as Associate Justice.
“I asked for the holding of the special en banc. It has been awhile and I thought the forgetting has started,” Perez said.
“I wanted it done not for me and my family but for the rest serving the court. Maybe one among them, from where they are now, may also reach where I am now, standing before you as the honored person. It takes some time. It can be done,” he told court employees in his message.
Perez hails from Batangas City, Batangas where he graduated salutatorian in elementary school at St. Bridget College in 1959, and valedictorian in Batangas City High School in 1963.
He took up political science at the University of the Philippines in Quezon City where he graduated among the Top 10.
Perez also finished among the Top 10 when he graduated from the UP College of Law.
Supreme Court justices, headed by Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, participated in the program.
The Associate Justices presented tokens to Perez, with Justice Diosdado Peralta leading the ceremony.
Senior Associate Justice Carpio read the plaque of recognition for Perez.