MANILA, Philippines -- Former Energy Secretary Raphael P.M. Lotilla declined his nomination for the chief justice position.
Lotilla thanked those who nominated him, but said seniority is still the way to go to “[mute] political ambitions and [insulate] to some degree the office of Chief Justice from the patronato system.”
He was nominated by former economic managers and economists Roberto de Ocampo, Calixto Chikiamko, Gloria Tan Climaco, Bong Montes, Simon Paterno and Romeo Bernardo.
In his letter that was also shared with the media, Lotilla said he thoroughly considered the nomination but “I can only express to you my sincere thanks, but regretfully have to decline.”
This is not the first time that he declined, having been nominated in the past for an associate justice position.
“In the past, I took the position that in a highly politicized context as in the Philippines, appointment to the office of the Chief Justice based on seniority is a tradition that minimizes the jockeying for appointment from within and outside of the Court. I still have to be convinced of the wisdom of departing from that view,” he said.
He said such a tradition has been set aside in the past, but its “restoration has been welcomed with relief, like a lost valued symbol of character regained anew.”
He said there is now an opportunity to restore it.
“Over the long term, particularly under future presidencies whose virtues we are unable to anticipate at this point, adherence to the principle of seniority may still be our best option,” he said.
He said this will “shift the national focus to the quality of every future appointment to the Court, and away from the position solely of the Chief Justice.”
This way, the supposed collegial character of the Supreme Court would be maintained, he said.
“I suggest that only for overwhelming reasons, such as the inability of the incumbent members of the Court to redeem themselves and the institution, should we consider appointing from outside of the Court. Whether these weighty considerations exist, the appointing power can be a better judge from the unobstructed view of the leader’s lair,” he said.
He said, however, that his take on the matter is with an optimism that “the members of the Court, individually and as a collective, have distilled from recent experience lessons of primordial import for rebuilding and strengthening national institutions including the Court itself.”
Lotilla, who celebrated his birthday on Saturday, taught Law at the University of the Philippines upon passing the Bar. He taught courses including Constitutional Law, International Law, Corporation Law, Special Contract, Government Control of Businesses, International Economic Law, and Special Problems in Citizenship.
Besides a Bachelor of Laws, Lotilla also holds undergraduate degrees in Psychology and History from the University of the Philippines, and a Master of Laws degree from the University of Michigan Law School.
He served as editor-in-chief of the Philippine Collegian in 1983-1984.