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Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the Philippines

Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the Philippines
Style The Honorable
Appointer Presidential appointment upon nomination by the Judicial and Bar Council
Term length Retirement at the age 70
Inaugural holder Cayetano Arellano
Formation Jun 11, 1901
Website Official Website
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The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the Philippines (Filipino: Punong Mahistrado ng Kataas-taasang Hukuman ng Pilipinas) presides over the Supreme Court of the Philippines and is the highest judicial officer of the government of the Philippines. The incumbent Chief Justice is Maria Lourdes Sereno, who was appointed by President Benigno Aquino III on Aug 24, 2012.[1]


The power to appoint the Chief Justice lies with the President, who makes the selection from a list of three nominees prepared by the Judicial and Bar Council. There is no material difference in the process of selecting a Chief Justice from that in the selection of Associate Justices. As with the other Justices of the Supreme Court, the Chief Justice is obliged to retire upon reaching the age of 70, otherwise there is no term limit for the Chief Justice. In the 1935 constitution, any person appointed by the president has to be confirmed by the Commission on Appointments; in the 1973 constitution, the person whom the president has appointed won't have to go confirmation under the Commission on Appointments.

The Constitution does not ascribe any formal role to the Chief Justice other than as an ex-officio Chairman of the Judicial and Bar Council and as the presiding officer in any impeachment trial of the President. The Chief Justice is also required to personally certify every decision that is rendered by the Court. He or she carries only 1 vote out of 15 in the Court, and is generally regarded, vis-a-vis the other Justices, as the primus inter pares rather than as the administrative superior of the other members of the Court.

Still, the influence a Chief Justice may bear within the Court and judiciary, and on the national government cannot be underestimated. In the public eye, any particular Supreme Court is widely identified with the identity of the incumbent Chief Justice, hence appellations such as "The Concepcion Court", "The Fernando Court", or "The Puno Court". Moreover, the Chief Justice usually retains high public visibility, unlike the Associate Justices who tend to labor in relative anonymity, with exceptions such as Associate Justice J. B. L. Reyes in the 1950s to 1970s.

By tradition, it is also the Chief Justice who swears into office the President of the Philippines. One notable deviation from that tradition came in 1986, and later again in 2010. Due to the exceptional political circumstances culminating in the People Power Revolution, on Feb 25, 1986, Corazon Aquino took her oath of office as President before then Associate Justice Claudio Teehankee in San Juan just minutes before Ferdinand Marcos took his own oath of office also as President before Chief Justice Ramon Aquino. Marcos fled into exile later that night. More than two decades afterwards, Benigno Simeon Aquino III followed in his mother's footsteps (with almost similar reasons) by having then Associate Justice Conchita Carpio-Morales (now the incumbent Ombudsman) swear him in, rather than then Chief Justice Renato Corona (who was eventually impeached halfway through Aquino's term).

List of Chief Justices

Portraits of the Chief Justices at the Supreme Court Building.
  Escuela de Derecho de Manila (Now Manila Law College)
# Name Began Ended Tenure Appointed by
1 Cayetano Arellano
(March 2, 1847 – December 23, 1920)
June 11, 1901 April 1, 1920 18 years, 9 months, 22 days William McKinley
2 Victorino Mapa
(February 25, 1855 – April 12, 1927)
July 1, 1920 October 31, 1921 1 year, 3 months, 25 days Woodrow Wilson
3 Manuel Araullo
(January 1, 1853 – July 26, 1924)
November 1, 1921 July 26, 1924 2 years, 8 months, 26 days Warren G. Harding
4 Ramón Avanceña
(April 13, 1872 – June 12, 1957)
April 1, 1925 December 24, 1941 16 years, 8 months, 24 days Calvin Coolidge
5 José Abad Santos1
(February 19, 1886 – May 7, 1942)
December 24, 1941 May 7, 1942 4 months, 9 days Manuel L. Quezon
6 José Yulo
(September 24, 1894 – October 27, 1976)
May 7, 1942 July 9, 1945 3 years, 5 months, 5 days Japanese Military Administration
7 Manuel Moran
(October 27, 1893 – August 23, 1961)
July 9, 1945 March 20, 1951 5 years, 7 months, 12 days Sergio Osmeña
8 Ricardo Paras
(February 17, 1891 – October 10, 1984)
April 2, 1951 February 17, 1961 9 years, 10 months, 16 days Elpidio Quirino
9 César Bengzon
(May 29, 1896 – September 3, 1992)
April 28, 1961 May 29, 1966 5 years, 1 month, 2 days Carlos P. Garcia
10 Roberto Concepcion
(June 7, 1903 – May 3, 1987)
June 17, 1966 April 18, 1973 6 years, 10 months, 2 days Ferdinand Marcos
11 Querube Makalintal
(December 22, 1910 – November 8, 2002)
October 21, 1973 December 22, 1975 2 years, 1 month, 23 days
12 Fred Ruiz Castro
(September 2, 1914 – April 19, 1979)
January 5, 1976 April 19, 1979 3 years, 3 months, 18 days Ferdinand Marcos
(Kilusang Bagong Lipunan)
13 Enrique Fernando
(July 25, 1915 – October 13, 2004)
July 2, 1979 July 24, 1985 6 years, 23 days
14 Felix Makasiar
(November 20, 1915 – February 19, 1992)
July 25, 1985 November 19, 1985 3 months, 26 days
15 Ramon Aquino
(August 31, 1917 – March 31, 1993)
November 20, 1985 March 6, 1986 3 months, 15 days
16 Claudio Teehankee, Sr.
(April 18, 1918 – November 27, 1989)
April 2, 1986 April 18, 1988 2 years, 17 days Corazon Aquino
(United Nationalist Democratic Organization)
17 Pedro Yap
(July 1, 1918 – November 20, 2003)
April 19, 1988 June 30, 1988 2 months, 12 days
18 Marcelo Fernan
(October 24, 1927 – July 11, 1999)
July 1, 1988 December 6, 1991 3 years, 5 months, 25 days
19 Andres Narvasa
(November 30, 1928 - October 31, 2013)
December 8, 1991 November 30, 1998 6 years, 11 months, 23 days
20 Hilario Davide, Jr.
(born December 20, 1935)
November 30, 1998 December 20, 2005 7 years, 21 days Joseph Estrada
(Laban ng Makabayang Masang Pilipino)
21 Artemio Panganiban
(born December 7, 1936)
December 20, 2005 December 7, 2006 11 months, 18 days Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo
22 Reynato Puno
(born May 17, 1940)
December 8, 2006 May 17, 2010 3 years, 5 months, 10 days Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo
23 Renato Corona2
(born October 15, 1948)
May 17, 2010 May 29, 2012 2 years, 13 days
24 Maria Lourdes Sereno
(born July 2, 1960)
August 25, 2012 Incumbent Benigno Aquino III
^1 José Abad Santos was unable to preside over the Supreme Court due to the outbreak of World War II.
^2 Renato Corona was impeached on Dec 12, 2011 and convicted on May 29, 2012, removing him from office. Antonio Carpio, the most senior Associate Justice, was Acting Chief Justice from May 30, 2012 to Aug 25, 2012, when Maria Lourdes Sereno was sworn into office by President Benigno Aquino III.[2]


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Chief Justices

  • José Yulo was the only former Speaker of the House of Representatives to be subsequently appointed as Chief Justice. Another, Querube Makalintal, would be elected as Speaker of the Interim Batasang Pambansa (parliament) after his retirement from the Court. On the other hand, Marcelo Fernan would, after his resignation from the Court, be elected to the Senate and later serve as its President. Other Chief Justices served in prominent positions in public service after their retirement include Manuel Moran (Ambassador to Spain and the Vatican), and Hilario Davide, Jr. (Ambassador to the UN). The most prestigious position held by a former Chief Justice was undoubtedly that of César Bengzon, who was elected as the first Filipino to sit as a judge on the International Court of Justice shortly after his retirement in 1966.
  • Roberto Concepcion was reputedly so disappointed with the Court's ruling in Javellana v. Executive Secretary where the majority affirmed the validity of the Marcos Constitution despite recognizing the flaws in its ratification, that he retired 2 months prior to his reaching the mandatory retirement age of 70. 13 years later, after the ouster of Marcos, the 83-year old Concepcion was appointed a member of the 1986 Constitutional Commission tasked with drafting a new Constitution. Drawing from his experiences as Chief Justice in the early days of martial law, Concepcion introduced several new innovations designed to assure the independence of the Supreme Court, such as the Judicial and Bar Council and the express conferment on the Court the power to review any acts of government.
  • The longest period one person served as Chief Justice was 18 years, 294 days in the case of Cayetano Arellano, who served from 1901 to 1920. Arellano was 73 years, 29 days old upon his resignation, the greatest age ever reached by an incumbent Chief Justice, and a record unlikely to be broken with the current mandatory retirement age of 70.
  • The shortest tenure of any Chief Justice was that of Pedro Yap, who served as Chief Justice for 73 days in 1988. Other Chief Justices who served for less than a year were Felix Makasiar (85 days), Ramon Aquino (78 days) and Artemio Panganiban (352 days). Of these Chief Justices, all but Aquino left office upon reaching the mandatory retirement age of 70; Aquino resigned in 1986 after the newly installed President Corazon Aquino asked for the courtesy resignations of all the members of the Court.
  • The oldest person appointed as Chief Justice was Pedro Yap, who was 69 years, 292 days old upon his appointment in 1988. Other persons appointed as Chief Justice in their 69th year were Felix Makasiar (69 years, 280 days old) and Artemio Panganiban (69 years, 13 days old). The youngest person named as Chief Justice was Manuel Moran, who was 51 years, 256 days old upon his appointment.
  • Claudio Teehankee had to wait for nearly 18 years as Associate Justice before he was appointed as Chief Justice. He was twice bypassed by Ferdinand Marcos in favor a more junior Associate Justice before he was finally appointed Chief Justice by Corazon Aquino. Of the Filipino Associate Justices, Florentino Torres and J. B. L. Reyes served over 18 years in the Court without becoming Chief Justice. In contrast, Pedro Yap had served as Associate Justice for only 2 years, 10 days before he was promoted as Chief Justice.
  • The longest lived Chief Justice was César Bengzon, who died in 1992 aged 96 years, 97 days old. Two other Chief Justices lived past 90: Ricardo Paras (93 years, 235 days) and Querube Makalintal (91 years, 322 days).
  • The youngest Chief Justice to die was José Abad Santos, who was executed by the Japanese army in 1942 at age 56 years, 77 days. The youngest Chief Justice to die from non-violent causes was Fred Ruiz Castro, who died in 1979 of a heart attack inflight to India, at age 64 years, 231 days. Abad Santos, Castro and Manuel Araullo are the only Chief Justices to die while in office.
  • The first Chief Justice to be impeached is Renato Corona. On Dec 12, 2011, 188 of the 285 members of House of Representatives voted to transmit to the Senate the Articles of Impeachment filed against him. On May 29, 2012, the Senate, voting 20-3, convicted Corona under Article II pertaining to his failure to disclose to the public his statement of assets, liabilities, and net worth.[3]
  • Maria Lourdes Sereno is the first female appointed to serve as Chief Justice, following the impeachment of Renato Corona and deliberations by the Judicial and Bar Council in 2012.


See also


  1. ^ "Maria Lourdes A. Sereno". Official Gazette. Aug 24, 2012. Retrieved Aug 24, 2012. 
  2. ^ "Carpio is acting chief justice under SC order". Philippine Daily Inquirer. May 30, 2012. Retrieved May 30, 2012. 
  3. ^ "Senate votes 20-3 to convict Corona". May 29, 2012. Retrieved May 30, 2012. 

Further reading