MANILA, Philippines ? The Supreme Court has defended the appointment of Associate Justice Renato Corona as chief justice and lashed at critics who questioned his independence.
"The JBC will not include Justice Corona in the list of aspirants to the Supreme Court position if he is not qualified," said lawyer Midas Marquez, spokesman for the high court.
"Ascribing partiality because of past relations can be unfair," Marquez said.
Corona, the second most senior associate justice of the Supreme Court and who was appointed by Arroyo in 2002, was named to the highest post in the judiciary Wednesday. He will replace incumbent Reynato Puno who will retire on May 17.
Critics question Corona's independence, noting that Supreme Court decisions would show that he always sided with the government.
Corona, during his interview with members of the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC), however, said he has decided and participated in the deliberation of over hundreds of cases.
He said there was no basis for his critics to make the allegation, citing that there were less then 20 cases in which he voted in favor of the government.
Marquez said even Chief Justice Puno voted for Corona to be included in the shortlist of nominees.
He added that it was also unfair to argue that Antonio Carpio, being the senior associate justice, should have been Puno?s successor the seniority rule was ?not absolute.?
"If it will be required that it should be the most senior who should be appointed, then you are not giving the appointing authority to choose," Marquez said, adding that the seniority rule is not absolute.
He cited the appointment of Associate Justice Artemio Panganiban over Puno to replaced then Chief Justice Hilario Davide after he retired.