MANILA, Philippines - Incoming President Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III said Saturday he has asked retired chief justice Reynato Puno to join his Cabinet as justice secretary, but the latter declined the post.
In an exclusive interview with ABS-CBN News, Aquino said Puno offered to be his legal consultant instead.
"I did ask him the possibility, but he said he believes that he'll be in a better role on a consultant basis," said Aquino.
Puno bid the judiciary farewell last May 17, after nearly two decades of serving in the Supreme Court.
As chief justice, Puno led the High Tribunal in promulgating key human rights legislation, the writs of amparo and habeas data for victims of extrajudicial killings.
He also devoted time on the Enhanced Justice on Wheels Program, where the judiciary visits jails via a bus to speed up trial of criminal cases.
Puno, however, became the subject of criticisms after President Arroyo's midnight appointment of Justice Renato Corona as his replacement. It could be recalled that Aquino, who will assume the country's top office on June 30, refused outright to recognize Corona's appointment.
Meantime, Aquino said he now plans to ask a "respected legal luminary" to be his secretary of justice after Puno turned down the position.
"We really need a proactive secretary of justice," he noted.
But the president-apparent clarified that contrary to recent reports, he was not considering former defense secretary and Arroyo chief legal counsel Avelino Cruz for the position.
Aquino has already formed a search committee to select the members of his Cabinet. The committee includes his sisters, Ballsy Aquino Cruz and Pinky Aquino Abellada, former Civil Service Commission chair Karina David, Makati Business Club executive director Alberto Lim, and Aquino's chief of staff, Julia Abad.
Cabinet appointments should be ready by July 1 after Aquino is sworn into office. - Report from Maricar Bautista, ABS-CBN News