CJSearch PROFILE: Associate Justice Teresita J. Leonardo-De Castro

Posted at 07/19/2012 11:56 AM | Updated as of 07/27/2012 12:47 AM

Associate Justice Teresita Leonardo-De Castro

The 160th Justice of the Supreme Court

MANILA - Supreme Court (SC) Associate Justice Teresita Leonardo-De Castro is the 3rd most senior justice of the high tribunal and the only female magistrate automatically nominated for the post of Chief Justice.

She was born on Oct. 8, 1948; she is now 63 years old.

De Castro finished her law degree at the University of the Philippines (UP) in 1972; she was among the top 4 in her class.

She graduated Bachelor of Arts cum laude, also from UP, in 1968.

Her secondary education was obtained from the St. Paul College where she finished First Honorable Mention. She also completed her elementary education in St. Paul's.

Justice De Castro took the Bar Examinations in 1973 with a grade of 80.90%.

She was appointed to the Supreme Court by Pres. Gloria Arroyo on Dec. 1, 2007.

Professional background

Fresh from the 1973 Bar Examinations, De Castro began her professional life in the Supreme Court as a law clerk.

She served the high court in another capacity, this time, as judicial assistant and a member of the technical staff of the late Chief Justice Fred Ruiz Castro, from 1975 to 1978.

Thereafter, she moved to the Department of Justice (DOJ) as State Counsel I up to 1981; she was promoted to State Counsel II in 1981.

Four years later, in 1985, she was again promoted to Senior State Counsel; she stayed in the post for 2 years, up to 1987.

In 1988, she served as DOJ Supervising State Counsel and Chief of the department's Legal Staff.

De Castro sat in the Board of Directors of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) from 1992-1997. At the same time, she was Asst. Chief State Counsel of the DOJ.

In 1997, she was appointed by then Pres. Fidel Ramos as Associate Justice of the country's anti-graft court, the Sandiganbayan.

Six years later, in 2004, she became the Sandiganbayan's Presiding Justice.

Awards, other credentials

Justice De Castro attended law courses in the International Law Institute in Washington D.C., USA and Harvard Law School’s Program of Instruction of Lawyers in Massachusetts, USA.

She authored the Katarungang Pambarangay Law.

In 1981, she was a Merit Awardee at the DOJ.

In 1998, Pres. Ramos awarded her the Presidential Medal of Merit for "exceptionally meritorious and valuable service rendered and remarkable accomplishments." On the same year, she was conferred the recognition of Outstanding Member of the Pi Gamma Mu International Honor Society.

She was also a recipient of the Chief Justice Davide Judicial Reform Award in 2005.

In 2008, she was conferred the Ulirang Ina Award for Law and Judiciary and the "Pride of Paranaque" award.

The following year, in 2009, she received the Distinguished UP Alumna Award for "Championing Justice and the Judiciary."

She is presently the President of the International Association of Women Judges (IAWJ), an organization of 103 member nations across 5 regions worldwide. Her term at the IAWJ will end in 2014.

Endorsements for Chief Justice, oppositions

As one of the 5 most senior magistrates of the Supreme Court, Justice De Castro was automatically nominated for the top judicial post.

Notable ponencias

GSIS RFP

De Castro penned the high court's decision in Oct. 2011 that struck down the Retirement/Financial Plan (RFP) of state pension fund Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) disallowing millions of pesos in retirement benefits to 22 officers and employees.

The high court affirmed the Commission on Audit's (COA) move to disallow some P66.63 million in retirement benefits, pointing out that the GSIS RFP did not include the granting of benefits for early retirement or for voluntary/involuntary separation from GSIS. The decision stressed that the RFP was intended for employees eligible to retire under existing retirement laws.

In her ponencia, De Castro wrote: "Its (RFP) very objective, 'to motivate and reward employees for meritorious, faithful, and satisfactory service,' contradicts the nature of an early retirement incentive plan, or a financial assistance plan, which involves a substantial amount that is given to motivate employees to retire early. Instead, it falls exactly within the purpose of a retirement benefit, which is a form of reward for an employee's loyalty and lengthy service, in order to help him or her enjoy the remaining years of his life."

Boracay reclamation project

De Castro also authored the Supreme Court ruling that ordered a halt to the multi-million peso reclamation project in Aklan province seen to be a threat to the province's natural resources and ecology. The high court directed the Dept. of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to complete an environment impact assessment within 3 months and, if necessary, to required the provincial government to address environmental issues raised by the foundation.

The P260-million project was intended to expand the existing jetty port and put up commercial structures, which, according to petitioner Boracay Foundation, Inc., would threaten not only the Boracay beach paradise but other areas as well. The project is one phase of what was originally dubbed "Aklan Beach Zone Restoration and Protection Marina Development Project" covering 40 hectares. The 40-hectare expansion was pegged at P1 billion.

Executive privilege

She also penned the ruling in favor of executive privilege in March 2008.

The decision upheld the position of former National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) Director General Romulo Neri regarding communications with then Pres. Gloria Arroyo. Neri claimed questions posed by a Senate inquiry into the aborted US$329,481,290 contract entered into by the government and Zhing Xing Telecommunications Equipment (ZTE) of the People’s Republic of China for the National Broadband Network (NBN) Project were covered by the privilege.

In her ponencia, De Castro wrote: “The right to information must be balanced with and should give way in appropriate cases to constitutional precepts particularly those pertaining to the delicate interplay of executive-legislative powers and privileges which is the subject of careful review by numerous decided cases.”

Erap conviction

De Castro headed the Sandiganbayan's special division on the plunder and perjury trial of former Pres. Joseph Estrada. The court found Estrada guilty of plunder but dropped the perjury case.

De Castro is married to Eduardo A. De Castro with whom she has 3 children: Maria Cherell, Christine Genevive, and Edouard Anthony.