Chiz: PNoy has no CJ bet in mind yet
Senator Francis Escudero says President Aquino does not yet have a Chief Justice in mind

STILL SEARCHING. Senator Francis Escudero says President Aquino does not yet have a Chief Justice candidate in mind. File photo from Senate website

MANILA, Philippines – President Benigno Aquino III still has a long way to go before choosing the next Chief Justice.

Aquino’s ally, Sen Francis “Chiz” Escudero, said the President is not yet eyeing a specific candidate to replace former Chief Justice Renato Corona. Escudero is a member of the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC), which vets nominees to the post.

On Wednesday, June 20, Escudero told Headstart on ANC, the ABS-CBN News Channel, that Aquino is still keeping an open mind on the nominees, which have reached 42 so far.

“None of the names pop out. You have to understand that the President did not come from the legal profession. He doesn’t know anything about them save for what he reads in the newspapers.”

Escudero added, “The President doesn’t have anyone in mind at this point and he’s still searching.”

The chairman of the Senate Justice Committee also said that he prefers to give the President a mix of sitting Supreme Court justices and outsiders.

“The buck stops with the President. The list will come from various persuasions. It’s a moving target. It’s a slippery slope in terms of giving the Supreme Court a good mix. Track record is a factor,” said Escudero.

The JBC is still accepting nominations to the post after extending the application and nomination period to July 2. Escudero said the deadline was extended after the JBC got many requests to do so.

Aquino has 90 days from May 29, when Corona was removed in an impeachment trial, to name the next chief magistrate.

Chiz not anti-Carpio

In the interview, Escudero also denied reports that he is against the appointment of Acting Supreme Court Chief Justice Antonio Carpio.

Escudero and his ally, Vice President Jejomar Binay, are reportedly opposing Carpio’s possible appointment because of his former law firm’s ties with Transportation Secretary Mar Roxas. Roxas filed an electoral protest against Binay over the 2010 vice presidential race, and one of the election lawyers of Roxas is Carpio’s former colleague in the firm, Avelino Cruz Jr.

“That’s not true, that I did not want him,” said Escudero. He said he was merely misquoted. “For all intents and purposes he is joining the race. The mere fact that he has inhibited himself from the [JBC] process [shows his intention].”

Carpio and 4 other most senior justices are automatically nominated for the post.

Yet in a previous media statement, Escudero said, “However, it has always been my view and hope that the next Chief Justice should come from a neutral ground, someone who is not identified with any partisan groups.”

Appoint young CJ? 

Escudero also reiterated his concerns about the appointment of a young chief justice.

Appointing nominees like Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, 52, and Bureau of Internal Revenue Kim Henares, 51, would mean spending at least 18 years in the High Court. Justices’ mandatory retirement age is 70.

Escudero has said having a young chief justice ensures predictability and stability. A downside though is it might tie the hands of the President and his successors.

“These are valid concerns, appointing a justice young enough to outlast presidents.”

He added, “It’s an important process. The public should take active part.” –