Officials and employees of the Supreme Court paid tribute to retiring Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, who many in the judiciary and legal community regard as “the best chief justice we never had.”
Carpio leaves the bench after 18 years on Oct. 26 with no cases left in his backlog.
During his last flag-raising ceremony at the Court’s ground as SC magistrate, Carpio’s fellow justices and Court employees honored him for his leadership, wisdom, professionalism, and modesty, and described him as both a statesman and a patriot.
“Senior Associate Justice Antonio T. Carpio has always been faithful to the letter and spirit of the Constitution,” said a plaque of recognition read by Associate Justice Marvic Leonen. “He adopted reasonable and principled interpretations of its various provisions, mindful of contemporary needs for social justice and regardless of its popularity or whether it accommodates the powerful. His advise resonates among us: ‘follow the rule of law but also to seek and aspire for the rule of justice whenever there is a gap between rule of law and the rule of justice.’ Unquestionably, he lived a life of courage that all other justices of the Court now or in the future should emulate.”
“When needed, and on many occasions that the Office of the Chief Justice was vacant, he took on the mantle of leadership for the Court comfortably and without hesitation. His leadership provided the stability for the institution. The wisdom of his administrative decisions, his modesty, and his style of empowering his staff will provide the mold and inspiration for all future Chief Justices. He is always a solid anchor, a firm and impenetrable rock, and an immovable power of strength that holds the Court together when it truly mattered.”
The plaque also cited Carpio’s efforts to protect the country’s sovereignty, in a reference to his activities to uphold Philippine rights in the West Philippine Sea.
READ: Carpio: Fight for WPS to continue
Carpio, the plaque said, “earned his place in history of the Supreme Court. Many of his writings have become canonical . . . He will be known as the quintessential scholar, a patient mentor, an enlightened and patriotic Filipino, a passionate and just jurist, and—above all else—a leader for the judiciary.”
Carpio expressed his gratitude to fellow magistrates, Court officials and employees.
Summing up his accomplishments during his 18-year stint in the judiciary, Carpio said he will leave the Supreme Court with no case backlog.
“It was a very long journey allowing me to write 935 full-blown long decisions, 79 dissenting opinions, 30 concurring opinions, 13 separate opinions, and four concurring and dissenting opinions, leaving no backlog,” Carpio said.
Carpio will turn 70 on Saturday, Oct. 26, which is the mandatory age of retirement for a justice. His last day in office would be on midnight Friday.
Carpio recalled that 18 years ago after being appointed to the SC by then President Gloria Arroyo, he introduced himself to the SC employees as then the newest justice and asked for their support in dispensing justice.
On Monday, he stood on the same spot, conveying his gratitude to the Court’s officers and employees for their unselfish support, professionalism, dedication and, this time, to bid them farewell as well.
He said he is both happy and sad about his upcoming retirement. “Happy, because I have done my best to serve our people, and sad because I am bidding farewell to my family of the last 18 years. I cannot name all of you individually. You have made my long journey pleasant and productive.”
He also extended his gratitude to his staff for their loyalty and dedication because “they have lightened the heavy burden on my shoulders.”
Considered by many as the best chief justice the country never had, Carpio has been bypassed for the position of chief justice several times: during the appointments of the late Associate Justice Renato Corona in 2010, Associate Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno in 2012; Associate Justices Teresita de Castro and Lucas Bersamin last year; and when he declined to be nominated to replace Bersamin, citing that had he accepted the nomination he would only serve as chief justice for eight days because of his coming retirement.
READ: Carpio ‘most logical choice’ as new chief justice
Last week, Carpio said after his retirement, he would continue his research and writings and would hold lectures all over the country and abroad.
“I have several invitations to talk about the West Philippine Sea [WPS] in Japan and in the United States. I have friends researching on the same subject, who are also interested in the same subject and we agree to meet regularly and see how we should proceed from there,” he said.
When asked if he would accept a position as a government adviser in international affairs, he said, “I am always available to defend our sovereign rights in the WPS. I don’t have to have any formal position. They want my opinion, my recommendation, I will give it willingly and gladly.”
During Monday’s flag-raising ceremony, Carpio was given a certificate of appreciation and a plaque of recognition that was unanimously signed by the incumbent justices.
Carpio will serve as acting Chief Justice following the retirement of Bersamin until he retires on Friday.
Though he never officially became Chief Justice, Carpio will have the retirement privileges of one after the Court unanimously passed a resolution for the purpose.
He refused the traditional “majestic” ceremony for retiring justices at the Court’s session hall, preferring instead a dinner on Friday, the eve of his retirement.
READ: Carpio won’t back down on stand vs China
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