Chief Justice Diosdado M. Peralta retires tomorrow, March 27, after serving the Judiciary for more than 34 years as a prosecutor, a trial court judge, an associate justice and later presiding justice of the Sandiganbayan, and associate justice of the Supreme Court and then as chief justice. He was appointed chief justice by President Duterte on Oct. 23, 2019.
He opted for an early retirement or a year before his term ends on March 27, 2022 when he turns 70 years old, the mandatory retirement age for members of the Judiciary.
His accomplishments as Chief Magistrate come to light amid the year-long pandemic that is still hounding the government and its citizens.
CJ Peralta was in his fifth month as head of the Judiciary when the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) struck the country in March 2020 prompting vital institutions to shut down operations, including the courts.
Immediately, the Peralta-led Supreme Court (SC) devised ways and means to cope with the pandemic. Under his leadership, the SC implemented the previously tested video conferencing hearings by trial courts in civil and criminal cases to expedite resolution of cases and help decongest jails. It also allowed online filing of complaints and court pleadings and adopted a four-day workweek to safeguard the 29,000 strong court personnel nationwide from the virus.
A total of 192,444 video conferencing hearings, with a success rate of 88 percent, have been conducted by trial courts from May 4, 2020 to February 5, 2021.
Administrative Circulars were issued to protect the employees and court users from COVID-19 and to assure continuous operations of all courts. Among these were skeletal staffing, restricting entry into Halls of Justices to only those with official business, reinforcing physical distancing within court premises, constant sanitation of court premises, and the restructuring of various face-to-face training programs and activities of the Court into hybrid or blended learning platforms.
Also, the “Peralta Court” approved 18 procedural rules and guidelines to improve the administration of justice and minimize clogging in court dockets. Plantilla positions in court offices have been streamlined to guarantee the security of tenure of employees.
The SC set up the Judiciary Public Assistance Section to act promptly on concerns, issues and suggestions and even complaints against erring court officials and employees.
To address and prevent corruption in the Judiciary, the SC formally set up the Judicial Integrity Board.
“To this end, I can say with confidence that we, the members and officials of the Supreme Court, have done everything within our authority to address all judicial concerns and protect everyone’s well-being to the best of our abilities. In both the personal and professional aspects of our lives, we all have had to deal with the numerous repercussions of this global health crisis we are still facing,” Peralta said.
“We have proven that with our determination and willingness to adopt innovations, this pandemic is not and will never be an obstacle in the fulfillment of our sworn duties as public servants. We have all led, and lived, by example,” he added.
In his retirement message to Judiciary officials and employees, he said: “While I look forward to a slower pace of life with my family – my wife, Honorable Justice Fernanda Lampas Peralta of the Court of Appeals; my only daughter Atty. Dorothy; my sons Timothy John, John, Christopher, and John Isaac, and my 96-year-old ‘mama,’ Catalina Madarang Peralta – I cannot help but feel a tinge of sadness, as I will be leaving the realm of public service and my beloved Supreme Court, which has been my second home for the past 12 years,”.
Peralta said he may return to the teaching profession “which holds a special place in my heart.”