CJ search ‘contingency, not arrogance’

Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Abigail Valte said that even in Arroyo's time, an early search for the next chief justice was done

MANILA, Philippines – Malacañang defended President Benigno Aquino III’s early search for a replacement of impeached Chief Justice Renato Corona. Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Abigail Valte said that when former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo appointed Corona, a search was also done even before the post was vacant.

Valte responded to the statement of Supreme Court Spokesperson Midas Marquez on Aquino’s move to ask his legal advisers to search for possible Corona replacements. Marquez said on Wednesday, Dec. 28, “Let’s not be too presumptuous. Let’s not be too arrogant.”

In reply, Valte said in a press briefing, “Allow us to remind Atty. Marquez that in 2010, even before the post was vacated by the former Chief Justice [Reynato] Puno, there was already a search for replacements. The [Judicial and Bar Council] convened even before there was a vacancy. So what we are doing is not contrary to human experience that there was no vacancy and they already prepared.”

In January 2010, an Arroyo ally, then Quezon City Rep. Matias Defensor urged his fellow JBC members to open the nominations for Puno’s replacement even if it was still months away from his retirement in May.

The JBC pushed through with the screening process and Arroyo eventually appointed Corona, a choice Aquino criticizes as a midnight appointment. The alleged midnight appointment is mentioned in the articles of impeachment against the chief justice. 

‘Key word is contingency’

Valte also clarified that the search for Corona’s replacements is just a contingency in case he is convicted after an impeachment trial at the Senate. Corona is accused of culpable violation of the Constitution, graft and corruption, and betrayal of public trust. The trial begins in January.

“The scouting does not mean we will ignore the JBC. To the contrary, it’s normal practice of government to look at its options and then wait for the shortlist from the JBC, wherever the vacancy may be. Of course, you also expect us to do our homework,” Valte said in a mix of English and Filipino.

Marquez has insisted that there is no vacancy for the post of chief justice as Corona has not yet been convicted by the Senate.

“Again, going back to the word — contingency. All of us, in any plans or any steps that the government undertakes, we always have contingency,” said Valte.

The deputy spokesperson, however, refused to reveal the Palace’s contingency in case the Senate acquits Corona. – Rappler.com