Issue of September 2, 2018
     
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OPINION
 

2018
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The new Chief Justice

When President Rodrigo Duterte appointed Teresita de Castro to be the Supreme Court Chief Justice, not a few raised their eyebrows and questioned his choice. They demanded an explanation why she was the one selected. When none was forthcoming, they started to speculate that probably, she was appointed because of her role in the quo warranto case that resulted in the ouster of former chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno. Really?

The President owes nobody an explanation on why he chose de Castro. The right to appoint the Chief Justice is his to exercise. It is the law. It is founded on a constitutional provision and the administrative law that the appointment of the Chief Justice and the Justices of the Supreme Court is the sole prerogative of the President. Whether or not it is based on political or personal consideration, it is beside the point.

The point is, the law has entrusted the full authority to appoint the Chief Justice to the President that whatever his decision may be, the people must abide. This is as much the essence of democracy as it is our Bill of Rights.

If those who feel that the choice made by the President is wrong, they can file the appropriate proceedings in court to question it. They may want to impeach him or, you guessed it right, file a quo warranto petition before the SC. There are enough crackheads who are itching to challenge de Castro’s appointment via the appropriate proceeding, but it does not take an Einstein to tell you that it will be unproductive.

For one, the appointed Chief Justice appears to be one fine lady. Her demeanor is refined and her character is beyond reproach. Her track record as a public servant is untainted. No small wonder that she was welcomed with open arms by members of the bench and the Bar when she took her oath of office. Second, the President has made up his mind. We know very well that when he says what’s on his mind, well, it is not a laughing matter. Third, she will only be serving for about two months. Why take the professional glory and personal satisfaction out of someone who has labored her entire life to serve the Filipino people? Only those with cruel and selfish minds will think of doing this.

Ah yes, that is where the problem lies. We have lots of cruel minds in this country. We have lots of self-proclaimed political analysts who do not care about stability. There are the partisans who are sowing intrigues in our midst. They are the ones who are encouraging us to lose our collective values and trust in our government. For those who cannot enjoy the spoils of power, that is expected from them. That is what we call “gutter politics” which to me, is far worse than “gutter language.”

In the first place, I cannot thoroughly understand why the appointment of de Castro as Chief Justice is openly being criticized. The fact that she is the most senior among those who accepted the nomination, the one who was qualified and the one who was voted upon, should have put an end to this. But no! The freedom of speech says that everybody has to be heard about his opinion regarding this matter even if it will create confusion. Thank God, Duterte has the last say.

The past 10 years has seen the Supreme Court having its share of scandals. Two Chief Justices were removed from their positions, one past president characterized some of the Justices as “hoodlums in robes,” another one questioned the practice of “selling” temporary restraining orders, etc. It is time to insulate the Supreme Court and its Justices from further insults by leaving them alone to do their work. If we are to truly maintain the independence of the judiciary, let it do its job as a dispenser of justice. Let de Castro immerse herself as the new Chief Justice without much fun-fare. Let her insinuate the reforms she deems proper for the improvement of the judiciary. Only then can we see and feel a strong and united Supreme Court.

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