De Lima: I’m strong bet for Chief Justice
But House leader says she and Carpio should withdrawBy Marlon Ramos
Philippine Daily Inquirer
Justice Secretary Leila de Lima regards herself as a strong and acceptable alternative to insiders in the Supreme Court for the seat left by ousted Chief Justice Renato Corona.
A day after seeking divine guidance during a pilgrimage to the miraculous shrine of Our Lady of Manaoag in Pangasinan province, De Lima expressed confidence that she could provide the leadership the judiciary needed should President Benigno Aquino appoint her as Corona’s successor.
But House Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales II said De Lima and acting Chief Justice Antonio Carpio should reconsider their acceptance of their nominations for the sake of “delicadeza.”
Gonzales pointed out that De Lima had been a prosecution witness in Corona’s trial while Carpio had been accused of coveting Corona’s post and engineering his impeachment.
“There is no question, the two are both experienced legal personalities to hold the post. They are highly competent, capable and knowledgeable,” Gonzales said.
“But 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,” he said.
In her talk with reporters Monday, De Lima cited the need for a unifying force in the judiciary.
“I would like to believe that people are looking forward to an effective and trusted leader,” she said.
“What the judiciary needs right now is a trusted (and) effective leader… Maybe a fresh face is welcome,” she added.
If appointed by the President, De Lima would be the first female to head the 15-member Supreme Court. At the age of 52, she could stay on the job for close to two decades. The retirement age in the high tribunal is 70.
De Lima on Monday sent a letter to the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC), which screens candidates to top judicial offices, formally accepting her nomination.
“I thought I could offer myself as a strong and, hopefully, acceptable alternative to the insiders who, I believe, have the edge because of their experience as jurists and experience in the judiciary,” she said.
She admitted in an interview with reporters that she might not be welcome in the Supreme Court after she defied its order against the travel ban she had imposed on former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo although Arroyo had not been charged in court.
Arroyo, now a Pampanga representative, is under arrest in a government hospital after electoral sabotage charges were later filed against her.
“I don’t think I’m acceptable to the members of the Supreme Court after all of that experience,” De Lima said. “That was such a very sensitive case, a case of transcendental importance that everyone would have the right to express what’s in their mind.”
Asked how she would deal with the justices if she gets Corona’s post, De Lima said: “I believe that I have the right personality to be able to deal with everyone. I just have to really do my work with utmost fidelity and be as professional as possible at the same time projecting a no-nonsense image.”
De Lima said she was actually reluctant to accept her nomination, but decided to go for it after speaking with the President.
She vowed to keep the Supreme Court independent amid criticism that after Mr. Aquino used all the powers of the government to oust Corona, the high tribunal had become subservient to the executive branch.
Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said there was no assurance that De Lima would get her coveted job.
He said that De Lima was in Malacañang on Friday for a Cabinet meeting but that he was unaware that she had a private meeting with Mr. Aquino.
“But I confirmed it with her, and she mentioned to me that it was not so much a discussion,” Lacierda said.
“Secretary De Lima told me that what the President told her was that, ‘it’s up to you, you make your decision and whatever decision you make,’ the President will respect the decision,” Lacierda said.
He maintained that De Lima was not “adding insult to injury” in seeking the post of Corona, whom she helped oust by testifying against him in his impeachment trial, using hearsay evidence.
“She was just one of the witnesses (who was) also cross-examined by the defense,” he said.
Lacierda said the President’s wish was for De Lima and Internal Revenue Commissioner Kim Henares to stay in the Cabinet. Henares on Monday declined her nomination.
In bad taste
“Apparently, the ball has been moved to the court of De Lima. So whether the President’s initial preference changed or not, that’s immaterial for now,” he said.
Lacierda brushed aside suggestions that De Lima was disobeying a presidential directive to stay put, pointing out that she had to undergo screening.
“One of the dreams of a lawyer is to be a Chief Justice. There are very few who would not want to be Chief Justice, myself included, but it’s an honor to be nominated Chief Justice,” he said.
Lipa Archbishop Ramon Arguelles said De Lima’s acceptance of her nomination was further proof that the judiciary had lost its independence.
“The whole thing is in bad taste,” Arguelles said in an interview. He said Corona’s ouster rendered the judiciary vulnerable to the machinations of Malacañang.
“As of now, it’s as if the judiciary has been knocked out because of an upper cut, that’s why it’s still groggy. I don’t think they will be free, whoever will be the Chief Justice,” he said. With reports from Michael Lim Ubac, Philip C. Tubeza and Gil C. Cabacungan
Originally posted: 5:12 pm | Monday, July 2nd, 2012