The position of Chief Justice was created in 1901 by virtue of the establishment of the Philippine Supreme Court. At the time, the Chief Justice was appointed by the President of the United States: the court was composed mainly of American citizens with a Filipino Chief Justice.
There were six Chief Justices appointed by the President of the United States. In 1935, upon the inauguration of the Commonwealth of the Philippines, the power to appoint the Chief Justice was transferred to the President of the Philippines. According to the 1935 Constitution, the President of the Philippines shall make appointments with concurrence of the National Assembly. There have been six Chief Justices who were appointed under the 1935 Constitution. The only Chief Justice that was not appointed by a President was Chief Justice Jose Yulo, who was in office during the Japanese occupation, from 1942 until the liberation of the Philippines in 1945. During this time, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court was appointed by the Philippine Executive Committee headed by Jorge B. Vargas.
The 1943 Constitution provided for the members of the Supreme Court and the Chief Justice to be appointed by the President with the concurrence of his Cabinet. Upon the declaration of Martial Law and the subsequent establishment of the 1973 Constitution, the process of selection of the Chief Justice of the Philippines was changed. The power of Congress to veto an appointment by the President to the office of the Chief Justice was removed. According to the 1973 Constitution, “The Members of the Supreme Court and judges of inferior courts shall be appointed by the President.” There were five Chief Justices that were appointed under this provision. After the revolution of 1986, a new constitution was enacted and a new process of selecting a Chief Magistrate was created. Former Chief Justice and 1986 Constitutional Commission delegate Roberto V. Concepcion introduced the concept of the Judicial and Bar Council. The aim of the Council is to de-politicize the Judiciary by lessening the appointing power of the President. To read more about the appointment of Chief Justices, members of the Judiciary, and the Office of the Ombudsman, please click here.
To date, there have been eight Chief Justices appointed under the conditions of the 1986 Constitution.
Chief Justices listed according to appointing President of the Philippines
Of the fifteen Presidents of the Philippines, only eight have been able to appoint an individual to the highest judicial post in the land. The following is the list of Presidents who appointed Chief Justices and their appointees.
- Manuel L. Quezon
- Jose Abad Santos
- Sergio Osmeña
- Manuel V. Moran
- Elpidio Quirino
- Ricardo M. Paras
- Carlos P. Garcia
- Cesar Bengzon
- Ferdinand E. Marcos
- Roberto V. Concepcion
- Querube Makalintal
- Fred Ruiz Castro
- Enrique M. Fernando
- Felix V. Makasiar
- Ramon C. Aquino
- Corazon C. Aquino
- Claudio Teehankee
- Pedro L. Yap
- Marcelo B. Fernan
- Andres R. Narvasa
- Joseph Ejercito – Estrada
- Hilario G. Davide
- Gloria Macapagal – Arroyo
- Artemio Panganiban
- Reynato Puno
- Renato C. Corona
- Benigno S. Aquino III
- Ma. Lourdes P. A. Sereno
Notable Chief Justices
Of the list of Chief Justices, there are a few individuals that stand out for having gone above and beyond their duty and tenure as Chief Justice.
- Cayetano Arellano: Cayetano Arellano was the first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. He was appointed in 1901 when the Supreme Court was created through Act No. 136, along with three American Justices and one Filipino Justice.
- Ramon Avanceña: Appointed in 1925 by U.S. President Calvin Coolidge, he is known for ushering in an all-Filipino Supreme Court in 1935. Upon the establishment of the Philippine Commonwealth in 1935, American Justices were no longer allowed to sit in the Philippine Supreme Court—thus, new Justices were appointed, all of whom were of Filipino citizenship.
- Jose Abad Santos: As a wartime Chief Justice, Abad Santos took on two different roles; he was the Chief Justice and concurrently the Secretary of Justice. When President Quezon left the Philippines to evade capture by the Japanese, Abad Santos chose to stay in the country as a caretaker of the government. On May 2, 1942, the Japanese military caught Abad Santos in Cebu and invited him to become one of the members of their puppet government. Abad Santos refused to collaborate. He died at the hands of the Japanese on May 2, 1942. His last words to his son were, “Do not cry, Pepito, show to these people that you are brave. It is an honor to die for one’s country. Not everybody has that chance.”
- Manuel V. Moran: Appointed in 1945 by President Sergio Osmeña, Manuel V. Moran would serve as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court for six years. Upon his retirement in 1951, Moran was appointed as Philippine Ambassador to Spain and concurrently to the Holy See. During President Quirino’s administration, Moran was once again offered a position in the Supreme Court in 1953, at the twilight of Quirino’s presidency. Moran, however, refused the midnight appointment.
- Roberto V. Concepcion: He was forced into early retirement for refusing to grant absolute power to Ferdinand Marcos, the president who appointed him. In the resolution of Javellana v. Executive Secretary, Concepcion argued against the validity of the 1973 Constitution and its questionable aspects. Accordingly, he dissented, along with Justices Teehankee, Zaldivar, and Fernando, from implementing the 1973 Constitution. Due to the court’s decision, Concepcion would enter early retirement, 50 days before his originally scheduled retirement date.
- Claudio Teehankee: Claudio Teehankee was known for his firm anti-martial law stance during his tenure in the Supreme Court. Teehankee resisted multiple attempts by the Marcos administration to garner absolute power by issuing questionable decrees. In 1973, he was part of the bloc that dissented from the implementation of the 1973 Constitution. In 1980, he dissented from the proposed judicial reorganization act of President Marcos. In 1986, after the EDSA Revolution, he administered the Oath of Office of President Corazon C. Aquino in Club Filipino. He was appointed Chief Justice of the Supreme Court in 1986 by President Corazon C. Aquino
- Hilario G. Davide: Appointed by President Joseph Ejercito Estrada in 1998, Chief Justice Hilario G. Davide was known as the presiding judge of the first impeachment proceedings in Asia. During the impeachment of President Estrada, he conducted proceedings with impartiality. Following EDSA II uprising, which deposed President Estrada, Davide swore in Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo as the Fourteenth President of the Philippines.
- Maria Lourdes P.A. Sereno: Appointed by President Benigno S. Aquino III in 2012, Chief Justice Sereno is the first woman appointed to the position.