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Next Chief Justice must not be Corona foe—Santiago

By: - Reporter / @KatyYam
/ 02:25 AM June 04, 2012

Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago. FILE PHOTO/SENATE POOL

Here’s a piece of advice from Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago to President Benigno Aquino III on the eve of Monday’s meeting of the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC), which will deliberate on whom to recommend to be  the country’s next Chief Justice: Don’t choose an adversary of ousted Renato Corona for the job.

This is because the successor’s integrity would automatically become suspect, Santiago said.

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Santiago gave her unsolicited advice after she was asked about some names being floated to replace Corona, including Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, Internal Revenue Commissioner Kim Henares and acting Chief Justice Antonio Carpio.

While Santiago agreed “it’s about time” a female Chief Justice presided over the high court, she noted that De Lima and Henares faced the disadvantage of having testified against Corona in his impeachment trial.

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“There will be that moral question mark, that they witnessed against the Chief Justice. People might say, ‘Probably you testified against him because you’re interested in his position,’” Santiago said on radio station dzBB.

“Leila is a member of the Aquino Cabinet.  So there would be a perception that she is very close to the President. We can say the same thing about Kim,” Santiago said.

The senator pointed out that the country was not wanting in competent females for the job. “Right now, I can think of Ameurfina Melencio-Herrera as a possible Chief Justice. She’s good! Trouble is, she is not close to the administration, she’s not into politics,” she said.

Herrera, 90, is a retired associate justice of the high court. She is now chancellor emeritus of a judicial academy that  gives professional training to members of the judiciary.

A delicate challenge

Santiago expressed reservations about Carpio, a known adversary of Corona.

“Corona says [Carpio] is one of those behind his ouster.  This means the President, as appointing power, is placed in a very, very delicate challenge,” she said.

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As acting Chief Justice, Carpio will sit as ex-officio chairman of the eight-member JBC when it meets Monday. The council is empowered to submit to the President a short list of five nominees for the Chief Justice post. Mr. Aquino may choose from the list or pick someone else not on it.

“It would be such an awkward thing if the chair of the JBC is nominated and also votes. All JBC members who are nominated should inhibit themselves out of ethical consideration,” Santiago stressed.

Keep out of politics

Santiago echoed warnings against Mr. Aquino choosing a politician, especially one belonging to his Liberal Party.

“The Chief Justice must keep away from politics.  It’s such a sensitive position,” she said.

“Even if the successor has not done anything wrong, people can simply say the administration simply wanted to replace Corona with an ally. The new Chief Justice’s credibility is immediately eroded,” she said.

Unifying choice

In a statement at the weekend, Senator Francis Escudero, a JBC member, said “the hunt” for Corona’s successor should not be limited to the 14 justices now on the Supreme Court.

“It has always been my view that the next Chief Justice should come from a neutral ground, someone who is not identified with any partisan group,” Escudero said.

“Any choices and actions for the country now should be a unifying, inclusive and progressive one. We just came from a highly divisive exercise and now that it is over, we need to move on and move forward,” Escudero said.

Escudero was earlier reported by the US-based Asia Journal newspaper as saying that picking Carpio as the new Chief Justice might plunge the high court into “another conflict” owing to the feud between Carpio and Corona, who had accused the former of coveting his job.

Under the Constitution, the President has 90 days to appoint Corona’s successor, who would then be the country’s 24th Chief Justice. With reports from Jerome Aning and Inquirer Research

Originally posted: 9:04 pm | Sunday, June 3rd, 2012

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TAGS: Antonio Carpio, Benigno Aquino III, chief justice, Corona Impeachment, Francis Escudero, Franklin Drilon, Government, Judiciary, kim henares, Leila de Lima, Miriam Defensor-Santiago, News, Politics, Presidency, Renato Corona, Senate, Supreme Court
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