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Macalintal on de Castro as CJ: 'Judicial professionalism upheld'

Macalintal on de Castro as CJ: 'Judicial professionalism upheld'
By Christopher Lloyd Caliwan
MANILA -- An election lawyer on Monday backed President Rodrigo Duterte's decision to appoint Associate Justice Teresita Leonardo-de Castro as the new top magistrate of the Supreme Court (SC).

“It is indeed very gratifying to learn from Malacanang that the appointment of Teresita De Castro as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court “was due to seniority rule” (and) that President Duterte upheld judicial professionalism by appointing her being the most senior aspirant,” lawyer Romulo Macalintal said in a statement.

Duterte defended de Castro's appointment, stating that whoever comes first should get the promotion and it will be the same for all justices, unless they refuse or opt to retire.

Macalintal, who heads the legal team of Vice President Leni Robredo, also said it is unfair to insinuate that de Castro's appointment as Chief Justice was a “reward” for allegedly helping the ouster of former Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno through quo warranto proceedings.

He said the 69-year-old lady magistrate possesses all the qualifications as provided for by the Constitution.

De Castro bested her two colleagues, Associate Justices Diosdado Peralta and Lucas Bersamin, both of whom also voted for the ouster of Sereno.

She has barely two months to serve as Chief Justice as she will be retiring from the judiciary upon turning 70 in October.

With the retirement of de Castro, the five most senior justices of the High Court would be Peralta, Bersamin, Antonio Carpio, Mariano del Castillo, and Estela Perlas-Bernabe.

A chance for Carpio

With de Castro bowing out of the judiciary in less than two months, Macalintal said Carpio may no longer decline nomination to be the country's next top judge.

“Her (De Castro) retirement will then pave the way for Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, the most senior member of the Supreme Court, to be Chief Justice. While Carpio was more senior than De Castro he chose to decline his automatic nomination as Chief Justice on a very valid ground -- delicadeza. He said he “did not want to benefit from Sereno’s ouster which he opposed by dissenting from the majority ruling,” Macalintal said.

Macalintal said Carpio possesses all the qualifications to be Chief Justice.

“Carpio will be doing a great service to the nation and to the BAR or legal profession if he will accept the nomination and apply for Chief Justice. Not only because we should not be denied of his known probity, integrity and competence, but also to further strengthen the tradition of applying the seniority rule in appointing the Chief Justice which was correctly revived by President Duterte when he appointed De Castro, even for a very short period of time, just to uphold ‘judicial professionalism’,” he pointed out.

Duterte explained he did not appoint Carpio, who served as Acting Chief Justice, because the latter turned down the automatic nomination.

“He stated in public that he is not going to accept it. So why force a person to accept a task that he does not want. This is a free country,” Duterte told the media.

Impeachment not a legal impediment

Macalintal, meanwhile, said he does not see the impeachment cases filed against the magistrates of the High Court as a legal impediment to their nomination for Chief Justice.

“While the rules of the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) provide that applicants for vacancies in the Judiciary with pending “administrative or criminal cases” are automatically disqualified from the post, an impeachment case is neither an administrative nor a criminal case. It is more of a political case since a decision in an impeachment case is not based on any judicial ground or reason but on the sound or unsound judgment of the politician-members of Congress. This is the reason why decisions of impeachment court are not appealable to nor subject to review by the Supreme Court,” Macalintal explained.

For his part, Solicitor General Jose Calida expressed doubt that the impeachment complaint filed against the seven SC justices namely de Castro, Peralta, Bersamin, Francis Jardeleza, Noel Tijam, Andres Reyes Jr, and Alexander Gesmundo would prosper.

In a statement, Calida said that if the SC justices would yield to the request of the opposition lawmakers, then the impeachment process would be reduced to just a “vengeance mechanism”.

“If the opposition legislators’ logic will be followed, then all justices, whose constitutional interpretation differ from them, can be impeached. Worst, following also this logic, justices who dissented from the majority view in constitutional cases, can also be impeached. This will reduce impeachment to a mere vengeance mechanism, far from which it is intended for,” said Calida.

He pointed out that the SC, through its justices, has the solemn duty of being the final arbiter of constitutional issues and the interpreter of the words of the fundamental law.

“Thus, when justices vote on an issue like the quo warranto case based on their interpretation of the Constitution, they are merely performing their constitutional duty. And in doing so, it cannot be said that they committed culpable violation of the Constitution,” he added.

The complaint was filed before the SC last Thursday by four House of Representative members namely Magdalo Party-list Rep. Gary Alejano, Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, Ifugago Rep. Teddy Baguilat Jr., and Akbayan Party-list Rep. Tom Villarin.

By this time, the top government counsel said that the opposition lawmakers should already come to terms with the SC’s decision on the quo warranto petition “because by constitutional design, this is how our government should work.”

He recalled that former Justice Jose P. Laurel in the Angara vs. Electoral Commission said that “when the judiciary mediates to allocate constitutional boundaries, it does not assert any superiority over the other departments; it does not in reality nullify or invalidate an act of the legislature, but only asserts the solemn and sacred obligation assigned to it by the Constitution to determine conflicting claims of authority under the Constitution and to establish for the parties in an actual controversy the rights which that instrument secures and guarantees to them.” (PNA)

Macalintal on de Castro as CJ: 'Judicial professionalism upheld' Macalintal on de Castro as CJ: 'Judicial professionalism upheld' Reviewed by AsianPolicy.Press on 10:52:00 AM Rating: 5

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