MANILA, Philippines – President Benigno Aquino III will not limit his choice for Chief Justice to those in the Supreme Court, a Palace official said on Thursday, May 31.
“The President will decide based on the shortlist that will be given [by the Judicial and Bar Council]….And I think he has already said in the past that he is open to an outsider. He did say it in one of the interviews,” Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Abigail Valte said in a news briefing in Malacañang.
The Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) will convene on Monday, June 4, to begin the process of selecting the replacement of dismissed Chief Justice Renato Corona. SC spokesperson Gleo Guerra said Acting Justice Antonio Carpio will preside over the JBC meeting.
In an interview with ANC in late December last year, Mr. Aquino said that in preparation for a possible conviction of Corona, he had directed his legal team to look for possible candidates for the job.
He also said in that interview that his choice would not be limited to those in the Supreme Court.
Valte said that just like anybody else, Mr. Aquino can suggest names for inclusion in the JBC list.
When asked, she said, “Ideally, yes [the President can suggest] because…it’s an open nomination process so anybody can nominate and, in the same vein, anybody can make an opposition to the list of nominees. It’s a public screening.”
Valte said Mr. Aquino has not mentioned any names for the position.
Should the President decide to name an outsider, this would be the first in the recent history of the Supreme Court.
She also said that the assumption of Justice Antonio Carpio as acting chief justice is “by operation of law” since “the most senior justice becomes acting chief justice in cases where the Chief Justice is unavailable, is indisposed, is sick, removed or has resigned.”
“We don’t see that it is out of the norm and from what we understand that has always been the procedure of the Supreme Court,” she said.
Sources disclosed that key allies of the President have been lobbying against Carpio due to the latter’s association with The Firm, which he co-founded with Pancho Villaraza and Avelino Cruz Jr. The Firm played a key role in the Ramos and Arroyo administrations.
On Wednesday, May 30, Sen Francis “Chiz” Escudero asked the President to name an outsider as Corona’s replacement, hinting that Carpio is associated with one faction within the administration.
Carpio’s former colleague at The Firm, Cruz, served as one of the legal advisers of Transportation Secretary Mar Roxas, when the latter ran for vice president in 2010. Roxas has a pending electoral protest against Vice President Jejomar Binay; the Presidential Electoral Tribunal is headed by the Chief Justice.
Roxas and Binay continue to be political rivals; both are expected to slug it out again in 2016, this time for the presidency. – Rappler.com