After Bersamin’s appointment, opposition asks Duterte: ‘What happened to seniority?’
Senatorial candidates from the Oposisyon Koalisyon (OK) on Wednesday asked why President Rodrigo Duterte did not follow through on his promise to appoint a Supreme Court chief justice based on seniority, after news broke that he chose Associate Justice Lucas Bersamin.
Former Solicitor General Florin Hilbay explained that if Duterte’s own rule is followed, Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, who likewise vied for the vacant position, should have been appointed as the next head magistrate.
“Kailangan nating tandaan ang ipinangako ng presidente na ia-appoint ‘yong pinaka-senior na mahistrado. I suppose kailangan ding tanungin si presidente kung bakit hindi niya sinusunod ‘yong kanyang sinabi,” Hilbay said during a press conference in Quezon City.
(We need to remember the President’s promise that he will appoint the most senior magistrate. I suppose we need to ask him why he didn’t follow what he promised.)
“Nag-apply naman ‘yong pinaka-senior, sa tingin ko may obligasyon din ‘yong ating pangulo na i-explika sa taumbayan kung bakit hindi niya susundin ‘yong sinabi niya,” he added.
(The most senior magistrate applied or the position, so I think there is an obligation on the part of the president to explain to the public why the seniority rule was not followed.)
It was reported earlier that Duterte picked Bersamin on the basis that he was the most senior member of the Supreme Court in terms of the number of years spent with the judiciary.
Bersamin has been with the department for 32 years or from the time he was appointed as judge of the Quezon City Regional Trial Court.
However, if ‘seniority’ would be based on the number of years as an SC associate justice, Carpio is the most senior. He was appointed by former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to the high tribunal in 2001, while Bersamin became an associate justice just in 2009.
But Magdalo party-list Rep. Gary Alejano believes that seniority was never the basis for picking a new CJ. Rather, it was a ‘payoff’ for siding with Duterte on controversial issues.
“Isang pagre-reward ito, sa aking pananaw. Dahil lahat ng kagustuhan ni pangulo, simula pa lang no’ng paglibing kay (former President Ferdinand) Marcos, extension ng martial law (in Mindanao), pagtanggal kay (former Chief Justice) Sereno, pumanig siya,” Alejano explained.
(This is a reward for agreeing to all the President’s wishes — from the burial of former President Ferdinand Marcos at the Libingan (ng mga Bayani) to the extension of martial law (in Mindanao) to the ouster of (former Chief Justice) Sereno.
Still, both expressed hope that Bersamin — which Hilbay described as a career official — would exercise impartiality in the cases that the SC would decide.
“Regardless kung ano man ‘yong mga kinuha niyang posisyon noong mga specific cases (Regardless of his position in specific cases in the past), we can only look forward to the cases that will be filed in the future,” Hilbay said.
“Ang pinaka-importanteng responsibilidad ng isang punong mahistrado ay gamitin ‘yong kanyang political capital as a leader. Pwede niyang gamitin ‘yong political capital na ‘yon para maglatag ng mga mas malawakang reporma,” he added.
(The most important responsibility of the chief magistrate is to use his political capital as a leader. He can use his political capital to lay the groundwork for broad reforms.)
Alejano said that the opposition would give Bersamin a chance, but they will watch his actions.
“We would continue to be vigilant,” he said, expressing hope that the country’s institutions will continue to be independent and push for the interest and welfare of the people. /ee
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.