MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) - Justice Secretary Leila de Lima will not heed the call of House Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales II for her to withdraw from the Chief Justice race, saying it is her personal decision to accept her nominations.
De Lima said she is merely "offering" herself as an alternative to the Supreme Court (SC) insiders, whom she considers as the strong contenders for the post vacated by Chief Justice Renato Corona.
Gonzales yesterday called on de Lima and Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, who also accepted his automatic nomination, to withdraw for the sake of "delicadeza."
Gonzales raised the matter of De Lima's testimony in Corona's impeachment trial in favor of the prosecution, while Corona had accused Carpio of being part of the alleged conspiracy to oust him so that he may succeed the post.
"They should consider that mere acceptance of their nominations may put President Aquino in a bad light as this may give life to the statement of former Chief Justice Corona that he was deliberately removed to be replaced by another who has close ties with the chief executive," Gonzales told media men.
De Lima said she will stand by her decision and submit to the selection process of the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC).
"It's our individual decision... I'm just offering myself as an alternative to the insiders, to the other contenders, so tingnan natin if JBC [will] consider me as fit enough for that post and if shortlisted, if the President [will] also think that I'm worthy of that post," she said.
The justice chief stressed that she is not competing with the more than 20 others who accepted their endorsements, and that she remains confident in her track record as an election lawyer, chairperson of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR), and now Secretary of Justice.
"The selection process of the JBC is not a matter of the contenders proving who is the best or who is better than who but it's about aspirants proving to the JBC that he or she is worthy of consideration, that if chosen, would be able to discharge [the] mandated task with utmost fidelity," de Lima said.
She, however, admitted still feeling "ambivalent" about her decision.
"[Up to] now I have mixed feelings, I'm still ambivalent about it -- my going for it -- but I made the decision... let's see kung kaya makumbinsi ang JBC na karapat dapat tayo," she said.
Seventy-one people were nominated for the top judicial post, with 2 applying. The JBC will make public the names of those who have complied with the minimum requirements and publish the list for at least 10 days. The public interviews will take place thereafter which will be carried live on tv and radio for the first time.
President Aquino has to appoint a new Chief Justice on or before August 27, incidentally, also De Lima's 53rd birthday.