Newly-appointed Executive Secretary Lucas Bersamin (right) as he takes his oath of office Tuesday (27 September 2022) before President Bongbong Marcos (PNA photo courtesy)
Critics and supporters of, bloggers, vloggers, opinion writers as well as self-defined political analysts of acts of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. now have their eyes and thoughts on the new Executive Secretary who took his oath of office 10 days after his predecessor resigned following the sugar importation fiasco.
The 65-year-old President Marcos, fresh from a six-day official visit to the United States where he addressed the 77th session of the UN General Assembly, administered the oath of former Supreme Court Chief Justice Lucas Bersamin, son of Bangued, Abra, who turns 73 next month, two days after arrival.
Within hours, ES Bersamin – identified on the President’s Facebook page as acting Executive Secretary – immediately joined the President’s Cabinet meeting, a day after the chief executive surveyed the extent of damage caused by super typhoon Karding in Central Luzon and Northern Philippines.
More than a month earlier, the President also visited the Ilocos Region and the Cordilleras, including Abra, after a powerful earthquake destroyed cultural landmarks as well as roads and bridges in the deep north.
Who is this new Executive Secretary, who had been pulled out from his post as chairman of the Government Service Insurance System and a member of its board of trustees since 2020?
Lucas Purugganan Bersamin (born October 18, 1949) is a Filipino lawyer – he placed 9th in the 1973 bar exams, following graduation from the University of the East — and jurist who served on the Supreme Court for 10 years, first as an associate justice from 2009 to 2018 and then as the 25th chief justice of the Philippines from 2018 until his retirement in 2019.
He was named by President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to the high court as an associate justice on April 2, 2009. Prior to becoming an associate justice, he was a member of the Court of Appeals.
Bersamin’s appointment, which had been – to use an oft-repeated social media term – in the Maritess mill after his predecessor Vic Rodriguez resigned 10 days earlier – was immediately confirmed by Malacanang.
Rodriguez’s resignation followed the sugar importation mess that he got himself dragged into.
This soon, many remember Bersamin’s 10-year stint in the High Court as marked by controversial ponencias and concurring votes, including the acquittal of former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and the bail grant to plunder defendant Juan Ponce Enrile, now President Marcos’ chief legal counsel.
Bersamin’s bail grant favoring Enrile, in particular, had been based on humanitarian considerations because of old age.
He was also one of the nine Supreme Court justices who voted to allow a hero’s burial for President Ferdinand Marcos Sr. on November 18, 2016, who died in Hawaii on September 28, 1989, aged 72.
His remains were not allowed home to the Philippines by succeeding administrations, either on their own or because of protests by anti-Marcos forces, but were brought back in 1993 but not allowed to be buried at the Libingan ng mga Bayani despite his being a former soldier and commander-in-chief of the Armed Forces.
But on November 18, 2016, less than five months after President Rodrigo Duterte had taken his oath of office, the chief of state allowed the former president to be buried at the Libingan ng Mga Bayani, prompting anti-Marcos forces to petition the Supreme Court to stop the burial.
Before his retirement from the high court, Bersamin was also quoted as saying he wanted to be remembered as a “healing chief justice” which was a reference to the controversial quo warranto case against at the time Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno.
The next few days, or even weeks or months, need attentive monitoring. (ai/mtvn)