Says Corona impeachment not an affront to judicial independence
MANILA, Philippines - Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, the strongest contender for the post of Chief Justice from inside the Supreme Court (SC), has not yet decided on whether to accept his automatic nomination.
Speaking to reporters at the sidelines of the launch of the book, "History of the Supreme Court," published by the Philippine Judiciary Foundation, Inc. (PSFI), Carpio said he has yet to decide on the matter.
"We haven't decided yet... you will know when we submit our reply [to the nomination]," Carpio said.
The five most senior justices of the high tribunal are automatically nominated for the post of Chief Justice when the post is vacated. Aside from Carpio, Associate Justices Presbitero Velasco, Jr, Teresita Leonardo-De Castro, Arturo Brion, and Diosdado Peralta are in the running to replace former Chief Justice Renato Corona who was removed from office following his impeachment trial.
Next CJ a prerogative of Pres. Aquino
Carpio said he will welcome the new Chief Justice, even if it won't be him.
"It's the President's prerogative... There is nothing in the Constitution which says that the most senior (Associate Justice) should be appointed, so it’s the prerogative of the President to appoint anyone in the list submitted by the JBC. That’s the right of the President, the power given to him by the Constitution and I respect the Constitution. The constitution is my bible," he said.
Carpio also refused to answer point blank on whether he agrees with the new requirement imposed by the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) that nominees and applicants for Chief Justice should sign a waiver in favor of the council on their foreign currency accounts -- a move that was started by Corona himself who had challenged all public officials to do the same, "in the interest of transparency and public accountability."
Carpio said his position on the matter will be revealed in his response.
Carpio, who sits as officer-in-charge of the high court, was not among the JBC members who voted in favor of the waiver requirement since he inhibited from discussions on the search for the new Chief Justice.
CJ Corona impeachment "not an affront to Judicial Independence"
Corona had repeatedly accused the Aquino administration of undermining Judicial Independence by using its entire machinery to remove him from office and questioning collegial decisions of the Supreme Court that the administration and its allies did not approve of.
Carpio said he does not believe Corona's removal from office could be equated with the independence of the courts.
"We have all our individual opinions on that but if you look at the impeachment charge, it's directed against one justice, it's not directed against the entire Judiciary. I don't think that's the intention of the Constitution. When the Constitution provides that justices, other constitutional officers are subject to impeachment, it doesn't mean that if an impeachment charge is filed against that person, the entire institution is also charged. The Constitution does not say that," he said.
Carpio also said he did not believe Corona's impeachment and subsequent removal from office left a "chilling effect" on all sitting magistrates of the high court.
"It has no chilling effect on me," he said.
SC will retain independence
Carpio also does not believe that with Mr. Aquino's appointment of the next Chief Justice, the high court will lose its independence.
"I don’t think that will be the case because a lot of the justices are really independent... Whoever is our Chief Justice, we will support but we are also independent. It doesn’t mean that if the Chief Justice has a certain position, we will just follow, no, each one is an independent republic," he said.
Following the impeachment of Corona, the high court decided to reverse a resolution barring the publication of the statement of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN) of justices and released the SALNs of incumbent magistrates. The financial report on the usage of the Supreme Court Special Funds – Judiciary Development Fund (JDF) and Special Allowance for the Judiciary (SAJ) – and the 2010 Annual Commission on Audit (COA) Report on the Supreme Court have also been released.
These are part of the lessons of Corona's impeachment, Carpio said.
As for his message to officials and employees of the Judiciary on the 111th anniversary of the Supreme Court celebrated today, Carpio said: "We have to move on."
Carpio was Corona's staunchest rival. He was accused by the former Chief Justice of being part of the concerted effort to remove him from office. Carpio was co-founder of the Carpio Villaraza Cruz Marcelo and Angangco Law Firm, also known as The Firm.
Asked to comment on Corona's accusation, Carpio said: "I don't think I have to answer that."