Leonen: I did not ask Duterte for chief justice post

MANILA, Philippines – Debunking a lie peddled by a pro-administration blogger, Supreme Court Associate Justice Marvic Leonen said on Tuesday, July 17, that he did not ask President Rodrigo Duterte for the vacant chief justice post.

“That's pure false that I am able to talk to the President, and second, it is ridiculous that I asked for the position of chief justice,” Leonen said at a judicial independence forum on Tuesday at the University of the Philippines (UP).

Pro-Duterte blogger RJ Nieto or Thinking Pinoy posted on Facebook in June that Leonen went to Davao City to ask for the chief justice appointment.

Leonen indicated he is not interested in applying, either.

“I am number 8, and besides that I know that the 5 most senior justices are the most qualified to become chief justice, anyone of them,” Leonen said.

Leonen's statement points to his inclination to restore the tradition of appointing only the most senior justices to the top post. Sereno bypassed the most senior justices when she was appointed in 2012.

The 5 most senior justices – Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio and Associate Justices Presbitero Velasco Jr, Teresita Leonardo de Castro, Lucas Bersamin and Diosdado Peralta – have been automatically nominated for the post.

Carpio has issued statements that he would reject nominations for the post, because he does not want to benefit from a decision he dissented against.

Carpio was among the 6 dissenters in the unprecedented decision to oust former chief justice Maria Lourdes Sereno  via quo warranto proceedings.

Velasco is retiring in August, while De Castro is retiring in October.

Both Carpio and Bersamin will retire in October 2019.

Peralta will serve at the Supreme Court until 2022.

The deadline for applications for the post is on July 26.

Sources in the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) said that apart from the 5 justices, no other person has applied for the position yet as of Tuesday. – Rappler.com

Lian Buan

Lian Buan covers justice and corruption for Rappler. She is interested in decisions, pleadings, audits, contracts, and other documents that establish a trail. If you have leads, email lian.buan@rappler.com or tweet @lianbuan.