MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) - President Benigno Aquino III on Friday said either Justice Secretary Leila de Lima or Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) Commissioner Kim Henares have what it takes to be the next Supreme Court chief justice.
Aquino, in an exclusive interview with Ted Failon in Malacañang, said the 2 officials are the most feared in his administration.
He said his choice as replacement for ousted Chief Justice Renato Corona will be qualified for the position.
The President added that he will also look at national interest in naming the next chief magistrate.
He praised de Lima, whom he believes can be top magistrate. "Qualified siya. Kung ako personal, siyempre titignan ko iyung national interest pero iyung personal na interest ko, sinasabi nga na sa administrasyon ko, dalawa ang kinatatakutan. Si Leila de Lima, si Kim Henares," he said.
Aquino said he will assess if the country will gain more in having either of the 2 officials leave their current positions in government and be transferred to the Supreme Court.
"Iwi-weigh natin kung sulit ba iyung gain sa loss na mangyayari," he said.
Aquino, in his interview, discussed the qualities that the next chief justice must have.
These include superior knowledge in law and having the respect of his peers and the people.
Aquino did not close his doors at choosing an outsider, or someone who is not yet a Supreme Court associate justice, as the next top magistrate.
The Supreme Court's current most senior associate justice is Antonio Carpio, who is now serving as acting chief justice since Corona's removal from office.
Aquino earlier said he is again open to breaking tradition and appoint a Supreme Court outsider as the country's next Chief Justice.
Outsider or not, the president said the next top judge would be measured according to his or her competence, integrity, and high sense of independence.
"Tradition is a good consideration pero importante ‘yung efficiency of the institution in serving the people," he said.
Aquino can only choose from the list submitted by the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) although the JBC can accept outsiders as nominees.
Senator Francis Escudero, a member of the JBC, told ANC he hopes the president makes the right choice.
"No one close to him, not his friend, not his partymate, not his ally para hindi masabi na inalis si Chief Justice Corona ay para mailagay ‘yung tao niya," Escudero said. "Sana ‘yung away na pinagdaanan natin sa impeachment na ito hindi magpatuloy sa kung sino man ang iaapoint ni Pang. Aquino."
Senator Jinggoy Estrada also hopes Aquino will appoint someone from within the Supreme Court.
However, Estrada is against Justice Antonio Carpio, who's now acting chief justice.
"I don't think I'm quite comfortable. Siyempre kaaway ni Chief Justice Corona tapos siya ipapalit, lalong magkakagulo pa eh," he said.
President Aquino first broke tradition when instead of Corona, he took his oath of office before now Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales.
Justice must prevail
The President, meanwhile, said justice must prevail in the case of Corona, who faces investigation by the Ombudsman and the BIR for his undeclared wealth.
He said he won't interfere in the investigation and possible filing of criminal charges against the former chief justice.
"Ang sa akin, pangangalagaan namin ang karapatan niya, bibigyan lahat ng naayon sa proseso," Aquino said.
"Sa dulo, kung napatunayan na nagkasala siya, doon sa mga korte, meaning malamang sa Sandiganbayan at sa Ombudsman, kailangan naman sigurong namang may kabayaran doon sa kasalanan sa bayan," he added.
Aquino said he is not taking the issue personally but sees it as an obligation that must be fulfilled.
"Hindi namin binalak na manakit. May obligasyon kami. May katarungan. Ang sinasabi ko lang dito, from the start, hindi na namin pine-personal," he explained. - with reports from Willard Cheng, ABS-CBN News; Billy Jane Ramos, ANC