Who Wants to Be the Next Chief Justice?

For the second consecutive time, the Chief Justice is ousted. It was not by impeachment but by quo warranto – with finality.

Under traditional, Constitutional means, the Chief Justice is ousted by the former method (Article XI, Sec. 2). It happened back in 2012 for former Chief Justice Renato Corona and was convicted 20-3.

Because of the finality, the materialization of impeachment would not push through, saving costs in the Senate but wasting money on the robes of the would-have-been historic event and it opened the floodgates of any public official, exclusively impeachable, to apply the new method.

For the fanatics, it was a spit for predecessor President Noynoy Aquino for initiating the vicious cycle to him, despite following the means legally and verbatim, and called it “vindictive” to the belated chief magistrate. Too bad, false equivalence and false dichotomy become the norm in post-truth political parlance and sadly, it is here to stay.

To be honest, we should also account President Rodrigo Duterte for involving invisibly the rev up of the payback machinery that led into that opening of the loophole via Solicitor General Jose Calida and Atty. Larry Gadon.

We are not surprised, given the excessive, absolute (despite his denial) and invisible power of sitting President.

The now-vacated post that represents as the figurehead of the judiciary of the Republic is now de facto coterminous with the Chief Executive. The next chief justice would effectively serve at the pleasure of the President, like a Cabinet member, rather than upholding independence from that coequal branch. Come 2022, if the next President does not get along with the new chief justice, the vicious cycle will continue to operate.

For parliamentary system advocates, it would be a perfect note.

So who will be the next (25th) Chief Justice?

The Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) will post the announcement of that position. The prerequisite documents for applicants must be submitted before August 3, 2018. After the careful perusal of documents, the qualified applicants will go through writing assessment and public interview. Afterward, the JBC will vote on each candidate to be placed on the shortlist of three candidates to be submitted before the President.

On or before September 17, President Duterte will announce who will be the next Chief Justice.

Although any lawyer, complying with the qualifications provided, can be the next CJ, in custom, they prefer to elevate one of the remaining 14 associate justices in Padre Faura.

The Verdict of the 14

Based on realism, recent statements, and gut feeling:

  1. Acting Chief Justice Antonio Carpio ruled out. As part of the lawfare delegation in the Permanent Court of Arbitration but without fruitful effort (i.e. Duterte befriends the enemy) after the decision, he would rather stick over the principle of sovereignty rather than that prestigious position.
  2. Justice Presbiterio Velasco, Jr., who made the stunning move of quashing the quo warranto amidst his opinions of favoring corrupt politicians in major SC rulings, will retire this August.
  3. Justice Teresita de Castro, the envious justice who refused to inhibit the QW case, will retire this October. She declined to take the position of Ombudsman, wherein they will replace Conchita Carpio-Morales who will retire on July 26.
  4. Justice Diosdado M. Peralta might be qualified. His retirement date will be on March 2022, about a month before the sitting President is banned from picking midnight appointees (see Art. VII, Sec. 15).
  5. Justice Lucas P. Bersamin might be qualified; his retirement will fall on October next year.
  6. Justice Mariano Del Castillo might be qualified, considering his pre-law degree earned in San Beda College (the alma mater of the president) and hailed from the Visayas. His retirement will be on July next year.
  7. Justice Estela Bernabe could not be picked, as she was a PNoy appointee.
  8. Justice Marvic Leonen, the most vocal associate justice in the minority bloc, would also not be picked.
  9. Justice Francis Jardeleza, the only Aquino appointee who favored the QW, is 50/50.
  10. Justice Alfredo Benjamin Caguioa could not be picked, as he is the classmate of Noynoy since grade school in Ateneo. Together with Carpio, he was part of the delegation of the country in the Permanent Court of Arbitration for the South China Sea Arbitration.
  11. Justice Samuel Martires, the first SC appointee under Duterte, could be picked, as both are alumni of San Beda College of Law. If appointed, he will retire on January 2, 2019.
  12. Justice Noel Tijam, who penned the main decision vs. Sereno, could be picked as a sign of utang na loob but he will retire three days after Martires.
  13. Justice Andres B. Reyes could also be picked. His retirement will be on May 11, 2020.
  14. Justice Alexander Gesmundo could also be picked. If appointed, he would lead the Court beyond Duterte’s term on June 30, 2022. He will retire on November 6, 2026. Fearing of the aforementioned cycle of the coterminous relation between the two supposed separate but co-equal branches of government, he might not get along with the elected successor of the said appointee.

Good luck who will take the top spot of the bench.

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