Palace: Chief Justice need not be old
Age not a factor for top judicial post—LacierdaBy Norman Bordadora
Philippine Daily Inquirer
She may be young, but not too young to become Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.
It is also not out of conceit that Internal Revenue Commissioner Kim Henares boasted an advantage over other aspirants for the post of ousted Chief Justice Renato Corona because she had seen how the judiciary worked up close and personal.
So said presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda.
On Monday, Lacierda indicated that the 51-year-old Henares had the lock on the Corona post, but backtracked later in the day, saying President Benigno Aquino had not yet made up his mind. That same day, a commentator said Corona’s replacement should not be an “Aquino toady.”
But the way he spoke Wednesday about the Bureau of Internal Revenue chief and Aquino’s shooting buddy spoke volumes.
“Age is not a factor,” Lacierda told Palace reporters.
“If you look at it, the present Chief Justice—again, I’m doing a comparison—the present Chief Justice of the United States Federal Supreme Court is only in his 50s,” Lacierda said.
The Constitution requires Supreme Court justices to be a natural-born Filipino, at least 40 years old and must have been a judge or must have practised law in the country for at least 15 years.
Justices of the US Federal Supreme Court may serve until they decide to retire, Lacierda said.
“And unlike in the Philippines where the justices have to retire at the age of 70, those in America [serve] until they decide to retire. They don’t have a [fixed term] in the United States,” he added.
No preference yet
US Chief Justice John Roberts is 57 years old.
Lacierda said President Aquino still had no preference on who should be Chief Justice.
In an earlier interview with ABS-CBN, Mr. Aquino said Henares and Justice Secretary Leila de Lima were among the most feared officials in his Cabinet. He mentioned their names in the course of a discussion on the next Chief Justice following Corona’s removal.
Lacierda, however, said that President Aquino mentioned in recent interviews that Henares and De Lima were proficient in their respective current posts.
“[President Aquino] would rather that they remain in their present position. But, again, they would have to discuss that with them because, of course, he also wants to know the thoughts of Secretary Leila de Lima and Commissioner Henares,” Lacierda said.
Both Henares and De Lima testified against Corona during his impeachment trial. Henares conducted a parallel investigation against Corona and sent agents to talk to his family, in-laws and his chief counsel, former Supreme Court Justice Serafin Cuevas.
Context of judicial reform
Lacierda also defended Henares from insinuations that she was conceited when the BIR commissioner said she had an advantage over other lawyers being considered for Chief Justice.
“I think she was asked if she has enough experience as a lawyer to become Chief Justice. She said she has an advantage because while a lawyer litigates for a client, she herself became a client,” Lacierda said.
“She saw what happened in her case and so she’s saying in the context of being someone, who was a litigant and who saw up close the workings of the judiciary, she felt she has an advantage to see how she could reform the judiciary. That was the context. It’s not that she’s better than the other lawyers. The context was judicial reform,” he added.
“Commissioner Henares isn’t conceited … She wanted to clarify that. It’s not being that she has an edge over the other lawyers. She saw up close why there is a need for judicial reforms and, hence, that’s the statement that she made,” Lacierda said.
Henares, an accountant and a lawyer, on Tuesday addressed doubts that she wouldn’t be up to the job of leading the judiciary by saying she had the advantage over other nominees because she herself had to deal with the imperfections of the judicial system.
“I fought for my right against illegal termination and I saw the hardships, the process. You will have to fight the system,” Henares told reporters.
She referred to her termination by ING, an international financial institution based in Amsterdam, in 2000 over what she said were policy differences. She lost the case on appeal in the National Labor Relations Commission.
“You will have to fight the large law firm [that] does not even appear as lawyers but who are doing all the backchanneling. And I mean, what can be a better teacher than experiencing the judicial system yourself,” she added.
Vice President Jejomar Binay told reporters during a visit to Iloilo on Wednesday that Mr. Aquino had the prerogative to appoint Corona’s replacement.
“Let’s wait who the President chooses,” Binay said. “Hopefully, the one who will be appointed has the judicial maturity and administrative experience because a Chief Justice is like a secretary of a department in charge of all judges, sheriffs.”
Party-list Representative Sherwin Tugna, a member of the House team that prosecuted Corona, said Mr. Aquino should make sure that the new Chief Justice “has integrity, honesty and a high level of competence.”
“People are watching his every step to ensure that what has been started will not go to waste,” Tugna said. With reports from Cynthia D. Balana and Nestor P. Burgos Jr., Inquirer Visayas
Originally posted at 03:32 pm | Wednesday, June 13, 2012