Acting Chief Justice Antonio Carpio will not change his strong stance on the country’s sovereignty over the West Philippine Sea in his bid for the most coveted post in the judiciary.
Carpio, one of the five most senior magistrates in the Supreme Court automatically nominated for the chief justice post, said that he has no plans of changing his position on the issue, which is contrary to the policy position of President Rodrigo Duterte not to protest China’s reported incursion in disputed areas.
According to Carpio, he would not sacrifice his “advocacy” in the WPS, which he considers “more important” than being appointed chief justice.
“The President has the prerogative to appoint whoever he wants and I will respect that. But that will not stop me from continuing my advocacy (in the West Philippine Sea) because for me this is more important than anything else,” Carpio said in an interview.
Carpio has been calling on the Duterte administration to file a new protest against China before the Permanent Court of Arbitration over the incident involving the harassment of Filipino fishermen by Chinese Coast Guard in the Scarborough Shoal off Zambales province.
The Acting Chief Justice proposed that the Philippine government should seek damages from China for violation of the PCA ruling in 2016 that favored the Philippines’ claim on the shoal, including its lagoon.
Carpio had accepted his automatic nomination for the chief justice post as one of the five senior magistrates of the High Court.
He said that there was no more reason for him to decline the nomination for chief justice after earlier declining the nomination for the same post after the ouster of Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno last June.
He cited the difference between the previous vacancy after Sereno’s ouster and the current vacancy after the retirement of Chief Justice Teresita Leonardo- de Castro last Oct. 10.
“Because in Sereno, my dissenting opinion stated that she could not be removed by quo warranto. So I did not want to benefit from a ruling that I disagreed on. But now in De Castro, this is an expiration of term. There’s no legal issue anymore. That’s why I said there is no reason anymore to decline,” the magistrate explained.
The head of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines has welcomed Carpio’s decision to accept the nomination for chief justice post
IBP national president Atty. Abdiel Dan Elijah Fajardo said the possible appointment of Carpio as SC chief will “stabilize the judiciary” should President Duterte again follow the seniority tradition in judicial appointments.
“The appointment of an experienced jurist, who is known for his adherence to the letter and spirit of the law, will also be in recognition of the independence of the judiciary as a coequal to the other branches of government,” Fajardo said in a statement.
Aside from Carpio, four other SC magistrates accepted nomination for the chief justice post – Associate Justices Diosdado Peralta, Lucas Bersamin, Estela Perlas – Bernabe and Andres Reyes Jr.
The Judicial and Bar Council of the Philippines (JBC) earlier extended the deadline for the submission of applications and nominations for the vacancy until October 26.
Meanwhile, the JBC has exempted the SC justices vying for the chief justice post from public interviews.
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra confirmed that the seven-member council tasked to screen nominees to judicial posts decided by a majority vote to adopt an SC resolution seeking to exempt senior justices from public interviews.
“The JBC thoroughly discussed the SC resolution in its last two en banc meetings. By a majority vote, the JBC agreed to dispense with the public interviews of senior SC justices vying for the chief justice position, without prejudice to closed-door interviews by members of the JBC,” Guevarra said.
The Justice Secretary said majority of JBC members believed that all sitting justices “had already been publicly interviewed when they originally applied for their SC positions, and any public inquiry anew on matters pertaining to their SALNs (Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth) and other personal matters in full view of the public thru live media coverage would not serve any substantially useful purpose.”
“It is significant to note that the SC justices who were recently subjected to public interviews for the CJ position also concurred in the SC resolution,” the DOJ chief pointed out, referring to Peralta, Bersamin and Reyes.
Under JBC rules, nominees who have been interviewed by the council are exempted from public interviews for another position within a one-year period.
This means only Carpio and Bernabe were supposed to face the JBC in public interviews, along with other new applicants for the chief justice post.