By Kyle Aristophere T. Atienhey, Journalist
PHILIPPINE President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. has appointed a former Chief Justice as Executive Secretary.
Former Chief Justice Lucas P. Bersamin, 72, was sworn in at the presidential palace on Tuesday, press secretary Trixie Cruz-Angeles said at a press briefing. Mr. Marcos chose Mr. Bersamin for the position because of “trust”.
The former magistrate will replace Victor D. Rodriguez, the president’s longtime aide who stepped down amid the country’s sugar import fiasco.
“The president says he is well qualified to be the executive secretary after spending so many years in the judiciary,” she said. “He has the necessary legal training and the ability to handle the paperwork and of course he is trustworthy and well qualified for that.”
The executive secretary, also known as the “little president,” assists the president in managing the affairs of state.
The Senate investigated a plan by the Sugar Regulatory Administration to import 300,000 metric tons of sugar which Marcos later vetoed due to rising prices and a shortage of supply.
The Senate majority later cleared him, but the minority Senate bloc said it had not communicated the palace’s import policy.
Mr. Bersamin, who served as former President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s chief justice from 2018 to 2019, was appointed as a judge by former president-now Pampanga representative Gloria Macapagal Arroyo in 2009.
He wrote the decision allowing former Senator Juan Ponce Enrile, who is now Mr. Marcos’ legal counsel, to post bail on compassionate grounds.
He also wrote the ruling that acquitted Ms Arroyo of looting charges in 2016 – she was accused of embezzling 366 million pesos from charity funds – freeing her from years of hospital arrest.
“This is definitely a political appointment,” said Jan Robert R. Go, who teaches political science at the University of the Philippines.
“Does he anticipate legal challenges to his future actions? ” He asked. “Does he surround himself with capable and connected people to protect him from his possible shortcomings?”
“The speculation is that the former executive secretary’s failure was due to his inability to manage competing political interests inside Malacañang,” said Michael Henry Ll. Yusingco, a political analyst, said in a Facebook Messenger chat.
“It makes sense to expect his replacement to be someone with that skill and a proven track record of handling partisan politics in government.”
But he doubts Mr. Bersamin can do that.
“Judges and judges are probably not qualified to manage competing political interests because they are in fact mandated to avoid that,” he said. “Being in the justice system means sticking to the law and ignoring politics at all costs.”
“A former chief justice seems out of place in a highly political and partisan office.”
The late President Corazon C. Aquino, who appointed Mr. Bersamin as a judge in 1986, restored the post of executive secretary from before martial law, according to the Official Gazette.
His predecessor, the late dictator Ferdinand E. Marcos – Marcos Jr.’s father – abolished the position and replaced it with presidential assistant in 1975.