MANILA, Philippines - Supreme Court (SC) Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio on Friday said he will not turn down the chance to lead the judiciary.
Carpio has yet to formally inform the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) on his decision on whether he will accept his automatic nomination for Chief Justice. In a chance interview with ABS-CBN News immediately after his speech before the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) Central Luzon regional convention in Clark, Pampanga, Carpio gave a telling statement which may lead one to believe accepting the nomination may only be a matter of formality.
"I will not turn down any chance or opportunity to lead the Judiciary," he said.
Carpio said his formal reply to the JBC will be submitted on Monday, July 2, the deadline for filing and acceptance of nominees.
As the most senior justice of the high tribunal, Carpio is automatically nominated for Chief Justice along with the 4 other most senior justices: Presbitero Velasco, Jr., Teresita Leonardo-De Castro, Arturo Brion, and Diosdado Peralta. Of the 5 automatic nominees, Brion has formally accepted his nomination.
Bank waiver requirement
While some sectors view as "unconstitutional" the JBC's newly-imposed requirement of nominees and applicants for the top judicial post to submit an unconditional waiver for the disclosure of their foreign currency accounts, if any, Carpio said he saw no problem with it.
"This is not an additional qualification for the office, but merely a tool to determine the integrity of the applicant similar to the requirement to submit police, Ombudsman and court clearances," he pointed out.
However, this requirement should now be imposed on all applicants to posts in the judiciary, he said.
"If the JBC deems it necessary that nominees to the post of Chief Justice should execute bank waivers to verify their Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth (SALN), and hence determine their integrity or honesty in declaring their assets, then the bank waiver requirement must also apply to all other applicants to the Judiciary," Carpio said.
This new clamor for the submission of unconditional bank waiver stemmed from the Corona impeachment trial, where Corona, himself, signed before the Senate Impeachment Court a waiver on the secrecy of his foreign currency accounts and directed all government instrumentalities to look into his assets and properties. Corona then challenged his accusers at the House of Representatives, and then Senator-judge Franklin Drilon to execute the same waiver.
Integrity, independence and accountability
Coming fresh from Corona's impeachment, Carpio said the judiciary needs to learn from the exercise and "implement its lessons."
Integrity, independence and accountability should be exercised by justices, judges and employees of the courts. Despite the fact that the President appoints the Chief Justice, justices, and judges, Carpio said the best measure of the stated virtues are written decisions.
"Decisions of a judge or justice are the best evidence of the competence, integrity and independence of the judge or justice. A decision can reveal whether the judge or justice knows his law, whether a judge or justice has favored a litigant, and whether judge or justice has competence, integrity and independence," he said.
"In constitutional cases, decisions or opinions of a justice can reveal whether the justice has decisional independence vis-a-vis the executive or legislative branches," he added.
Carpio was co-founder of the former Carpio Villaraza Cruz Marcelo and Angangco Law Office ("The Firm") and formerly, and has inhibited in cases involving the law firm as well as those that may have risen during the term of former Pres. Fidel Ramos whom he served as Chief Presidential Legal Counsel.
In his speech before the IBP lawyers, Carpio taked about the challenges in the judiciary, specifically, on judicial reforms. He stressed that these were his personal thoughts arising from over a decade of service in the judiciary.
He identified problems and priority areas such as clogged court dockets arising from delays in trials and delays in deciding cases; ensuring integrity, independence and accountability of justices and judges; improving court infrastructure; compensation and benefits; administration of trial courts; and training and career path for judges.
Judicial reform is a "work in progress," he stressed, adding that there must be continuity on past initiatives to solve the judiciary's long-standing problems.
"The judiciary must keep on building on past initiatives to address intractable problems as well as emerging ones," he said.
Carpio also stressed the need to involve to involve and seek the cooperation of the executive and legislative departments in the campaign for judicial reforms, adding that judicial reform is too big a program to be undertaken by the judiciary alone.
"All the stakeholders must work earnestly together because a well-functioning judiciary is essential for good governance and for the economic development of our country. Judicial reform is simply too important to fail," he said.