KEY PLAYERS IN CORONA OUSTER PLOT SEEK CJ POST
Perceived key players in the ouster plot of former Chief Justice Renato Corona made a beeline yesterday for the post of Chief Justice, accepting their nominations on the deadline set by the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC).
Twenty-five — and still counting — nominees and applicants to the top judicial post have signified acceptance of their nominations, many of whom are seen as Aquino-friendly nominees and allies.
Acting Chief Justice Antonio Carpio, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima and Junior Associate Justice Lourdes Sereno, President Aquino’s first appointee to the high court, have formally filed their acceptance of the nomination.
The three are seen as having played key roles in the oust-Corona plot. Corona has accused Carpio of launching a proxy war to usurp his post.
De Lima is said to also be a key player, along with Sereno, as she took the witness stand to testify to Corona’s alleged closeness to the previous president, reading lengthily from the dissenting opinion of Sereno who had detailed what allegedly went on during the en banc high court session in the issuance of the temporary restraining order (TRO) against the travel ban issued by De Lima against the Arroyos and charging Corona on his closeness to Arroyo, calling the SC an Arroyo court.
Sereno is also perceived as having leaked out her dissenting opinion to Aquino and De Lima in advance for this to be used against the TRO and Corona. Carpio is a distant cousin of Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales, seen to have been working from a palace script also took the witness stand presenting misleading calculations of what she said were 400 transactions involving 82 dollar accounts amounting to tens of millions of dollars in foreign currency denominated bank deposits under Corona’s name.
Corona would later own up to owning $2.4 million in bank accounts.
No less ironic is De Lima’s predicament of having openly refused to comply with orders of the Supreme Court in the past and openly saying she is willing to defy the high court to protect the executive department’s agenda. She also took the stand against Corona offering hazy testimony on alleged bias on the part of the disgraced head magistrate.
The Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) however said there is no legal impediment to the bid of De Lima to be appointed as the judiciary’s chief magistrate.
IBP president Roan Libarios told reporters that the organization has not received any formal complaint for disbarment against de Lima in connection with her refusal to implement a valid issued TRO by the Supreme Court last year that would have allowed former President and now detained Pampanga Rep. Gloria Arroyo to seek medical treatment abroad.
In an interview, De Lima told reporters the disbarment cases filed against her have not “ripened” into regular administrative cases that would disqualify her as a candidate for the chief justice post.
“I don’t think it has already reached the stage where I can be disqualified,” she said.
The DoJ chief also expressed belief that she can serve as the “unifying force” in the judiciary in case she is appointed as the country’s chief magistrate.
However, De Lima admitted having her apprehensions on how the incumbent magistrates of the Supreme Court (SC) would react to the appointment of her, as an outsider as Chief Justice considering that they have the edge because of their experience.
She formally accepted her nomination by the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption, Integrated Bar of the Philippines (Zambales chapter), Civil Service Commission Assistant Commissioner Rogelio Limare, the San Beda Law Alumni Association, Inc and lawyer Reynaldo Bagatsing, for the Chief Justice post.
“Well actually, that is one of my concerns because I am not sure if I’m acceptable to the insiders but I believe that I have the right personality to be able to deal with everyone. I think there is really a need for a unifying force in the judiciary...I would like to be believe that they are looking forward to an effective and trusted leader,” De Lima said.
“I may be acceptable to the rest of the judiciary—to the lower courts-- the Court of Appeals, Regional Trial Court, or Municipal Trial Court, but I am not sure if I am acceptable to the members of the Supreme Court,”she added.
De Lima, however, denied that her bid to be the next Chief Justice has the backing of the President.
“If I get enough votes then hopefully the President would make a choice and I would just defer to the wisdom of the President. But nothing is definite even if my name is included in the shortlist,” the justice secretary pointed out.
When asked how does she intend to get the support of the incumbent justices considering that she was among those who criticized the SC during Corona’s term, De Lima replied: “I just have to really do my work with utmost fidelity, that I will conduct myself as professionally as possible and at the same time projecting a no-nonsense image. I think my colleagues even here in the Department of Justice were able to see through readily my sincerity when it comes to public service and I hope to have that kind of image also when I get there if and when.”
The statements led to the filing of at least three separate disbarment cases against her.
“That (Arroyo travel ban issue) was such a very sensitive case, a case of transcendental importance that everyone would have the right to express what’s in their mind,” she said.
De Lima will not be resigning from the Aquino Cabunet until the day she gets the official confirmation designating her as the new SC Chief Justice.
In a press briefing, presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda sees it exactly the same way even as he noted that there isn’t any reason for her to step down as the Secretary of Justice.
“No, we don’t think so. The business of governing and the business of running the Department of Justice is too important to be left to an underling. Right now, there is no certainty that she will be appointed as Chief Justice and, therefore, there’s only an expectation of each nominee to be appointed. Everybody has an equal chance of getting appointed so, therefore, there’s no reason for Secretary Leila de Lima to take a leave from her post”, Lacierda said.
Lacierda added preparations for the public interview would not take too much of De Lima’s time, since it would “only involve questions of law.”
Some 74 names have been nominated to the JBC for screening in the process of searching for the right person to become the new chief justice. Twenty five including De Lima, have already accepted their nominations while 21 others have declined as of press time.
As of press time 25 aspirants for the top post in the high court, including incumbent justices of the Supreme Court and several officials of the Aquino administration, have formally notified the JBC of their acceptance for the Cief Justice position.
These are Justices Carpio, Arturo Brion, Presbitero Velasco, Jr., Teresita Leonardo de Castro, Roberto Abad, and Maria Lourdes Sereno; De Lima; Presidential Commission on Good Government Chairman Andres Bautista; Securities and Exchange Commission Chairman Teresita Herbosa; Court of Appeals Justice Vicente Veloso; Solicitor General Francis Jardeleza;
former law college deans Jose Manuel Diokno, Cesar Villanueva, Raul Pangalangan, and incumbent law dean Amado Valdez; Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez; former San Juan Rep. Ronaldo Zamora; Commission on Elections Commissioner Rene Sarmiento; Professor Soledad Cagampang De Castro; lawyers Katrina Legarda, Rafael Morales, Vicente Velasquez; retired Judge Manuel DJ. Siayngco Jr.; Ferdinand Marcos Pijao Sr and Manila Regional Trial Court Judge Amelia Tria-Infante.
On record, as of press time, 21 have declined their nominations, among whom are including Associate Justices Jose Perez, Diosdado Peralta, former Solicitor General Frank Chavez, and Bureau of Internal Revenue chief Kim Henares.
While a number of senators have already expressed their misgivings over the idea of some known close political allies of President Aquino gunning for the top position in the Judiciary, particularly those who have participated in the last impeachment proceedings, there are those who do not see anything wrong in De Lima accepting her nomination to the post of chief justice.
Senators Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel and Gregorio Honasan have a different view with what most of their colleagues have expressed on the likes of De Lima and others who figured in the impeachment trial of former Chief Justice Renato Corona.
Pimentel, who is also a lawyer, said there’s no impropriety on the part of De Lima in gunning for the post vacated by Corona saying that the Cabinet official is qualified to seek for the position.
Honasan, who is a Bicolano like De Lima, also is not opposed to De Lima’s possible inclusion in the Judicial and Bar Council’s (JBC) shortlist to President Aquino. Fernan J. Angeles and Angie M. Rosales