Palace: No assurance from Aquino that De Lima will be Chief JusticeBy Michael Lim Ubac
Philippine Daily Inquirer
MANILA, Philippines — Justice Secretary Leila de Lima will have to go it alone, or so it seems.
Malacañang distanced itself, on Monday, from the secretary of justice’s decision to accept the nomination to the post vacated by ousted Chief Justice Renato Corona.
In a press briefing, presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda made it clear that De Lima would have to contend with the rigors of the selection process being undertaken by the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC).
Lacierda said that there was no assurance that De Lima’s wish to become the next leader of the judiciary would be granted by President Benigno Aquino III.
When told that De Lima had met with the President before she made public her decision over the weekend, Lacierda said:
“But it’s more of the President telling her that whatever decision you make, I will respect (it).”
Thus, De Lima—despite her perceived closeness to the Chief Executive—had to slug it out with 70 others nominated to the post of the Chief Justice.
“You cannot have an assurance because she has to go through the JBC interview, screening,” Lacierda said, adding:
“And so there is no assurance here. Secretary Leila de Lima is going through the process of being screened by the Judicial and Bar Council as (with) any other nominees.”
Asked whether during the private meeting, Mr. Aquino had given his “go-signal” for De Lima’s acceptance of her nomination, Lacierda said:
“The President has not given his go-signal. They just talked. Obviously, the statement of Secretary Leila de Lima was that she is going to take up the challenge, and so she is willing to be examined by her peers, and there was no approval from the President.”
In accepting her nomination, De Lima does not need to resign her post.
“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, however, reiterated Mr. Aquino’s wish for De Lima and Bureau of Internal Revenue Commissioner Kim Henares to stay in the Cabinet.
Henares has bowed out of the race.
“You know, the preference of the President was that (he) would rather that… the Secretary of Justice and Kim Henares, the Commissioner of Internal Revenue, (stay in the Cabinet). (They) are important assets in his administration and his initial preference was for them to stay. But, of course, one could not stop (them) since there was already a nomination that was given to the JBC. So the President just mentioned to Secretary De Lima: ‘Kung anong desisyon mo, rerespetuhin ko (I will respect whatever decision you make).’”
He said Mr. Aquino’s preference, however, has become “water under the bridge.”
“Apparently, the ball has been moved to the court of Leila de Lima. So whether the President’s initial preference changed or not, that’s immaterial for now,” he said.
The presidential spokesperson did not take it to mean that De Lima was disobeying a presidential directive to stay put.
“There’s no such thing as disobedience there because obviously there was a nomination process. And I think a lawyer—this has always been a common statement of any lawyer—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 as Chief Justice.”
Lacierda talked with De Lima soon after news came out on Sunday that she had accepted the nomination by the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption, and the San Beda Law Alumni Association.
“I spoke to Secretary Leila de Lima Sunday, in fact, when it came out, I think, in Twitter, or in Inquirer. And so I asked her and she said that she confirmed that they (De Lima and the President) had a brief meeting,” recalled Lacierda.
De Lima was in Malacañang on Friday for a Cabinet meeting presided by the President regarding the proposed national budget.
“I was not aware that there was a separate meeting between Secretary Leila de Lima and the President. But I confirmed it with her, and she mentioned to me that it was not so much a discussion,” said Lacierda.
“Secretary Leila de Lima informed 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. And so, from that, there was nothing that we heard about it. In fact, we proceeded with the Cabinet meeting that afternoon,” said Lacierda.
Lacierda 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 the impeachment trial.
“She was not a main player in the impeachment trial. She was just one of the witnesses (who was) also cross-examined by the defense,” he said.
Tags: Benigno Aquino III , chief justice , chief justice nominations , Department of Justice , Edwin Lacierda , Judicial and Bar Council , Judiciary , Leila de Lima , Malacañang , News , Philippine Government , Presidency , Supreme Court