FORMER Sandiganbayan presiding justice and UST Faculty of Civil Law professor Diosdado Peralta is the newest member of the Supreme Court, adding to the illustrious roster of Thomasian magistrates in the high tribunal.

Peralta, one of three justices of the anti-graft court who convicted deposed President Joseph Estrada of plunder in a landmark decision in 2007, was appointed to the vacant Supreme Court seat by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo last Jan. 14.

“I expected (the appointment) in the sense that I was qualified like any other candidate for the position. I also expected (it) because I believe that the President knows I am qualified,” Peralta told the Varsitarian.

Peralta bested Sandiganbayan Associate Justice Francisco Villaruz Jr., Court of Appeals Associate Justices Martin Villarama and Portia Hormachuelos, and Ateneo School of Law Dean Cesar Villanueva.

Peralta is the 18th Thomasian associate justice. The last UST-trained magistrate to sit in the Supreme Court was Justice Angelina Sandoval-Gutierrez who retired last year.

Prominent Thomasians have dominated the Supreme Court, including chief justices Cayetano Arellano, Victorino Mapa, Manuel Araullo, Ramon Avanceña, Roberto Concepcion, Andres Narvasa, and associate justices Ignacio Villamor, Claro M. Recto, Jose Ma. Paredes, Jose Feria and Jose Melo.

Asked to comment claims on that his appointment was the result of close ties to the President, who appointed him after the retirement of Associate Justice Ruben Reyes last Jan. 3, Peralta said: “My friendship ends when my work begins”

Long-time legacy

As a Sandiganbayan justice for six years, Peralta focused on instilling discipline among employees and resolving cases that had been pending for a long time.

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Before being a member of the three-man Sandiganbayan Special Division that convicted Estrada of plunder, Peralta was known as the “hanging judge” who sentenced 40 men to death during his eight-year stint as a Quezon City Regional Trial Court (RTC) judge.

One of Peralta’s notable decisions as RTC judge was People vs. Fallorina, which convicted PO3 Ferdinand Fallorina of murder for shooting dead an 11-year-old boy (Vincent Jorojoro) while the latter was flying a kite on top of the police officer’s roof on Sept. 26, 1998. The Supreme Court upheld Peralta’s decision on March 4, 2004.

Peralta obtained his law degree from the University in 1979 and has been a professor of Civil Law since 1982, specializing in criminal law.

“My first love is teaching, but it must not disrupt your work as magistrate,” Peralta said.

The Civil Law Student Council praised the appointment of Peralta.

“We believe in him despite the claims that he was appointed because of his relations with the President. We believe in him because of his Thomasian integrity,” Council President Christer Gauder said. Aura Marie P. Dagcutan and Danielle Clara P. Dandan

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