Carpio to decline chief justice nomination

MANILA, Philippines – Acting Chief Justice Antonio Carpio said on Wednesday, June 20, that he would decline any nomination for chief justice on account of his dissenting vote  on the quo warranto petition against Maria Lourdes Sereno.

Carpio made the statement in an interview with Karen Davila on ANC’s Headstart. The declaration came after the High Court ruled with finality on its decision to remove former chief justice Sereno through a quo warranto petition. 

Carpio was among the 6 dissenters who voted to dismiss the quo warranto petition for being the improper way to remove a chief justice. His vote remained unchanged in the final SC ruling that affirmed Sereno's ouster.

“I look at this at two levels, as head of the institution right now, though temporary, I would implement that [quo warranto] decision of the Court, that there is a vacancy so we will open it for applications. On a personal level, because I have voted against it, I don’t want to benefit from it, so I will decline any nomination,” he said.

Carpio said declining a nomination for chief justice is “consistent” with his position against quo warranto as a means to oust a member of the High Court.

“I have to be consistent with my position, that the quo warranto is not the proper way to remove a sitting member of the Court. So I don’t want to benefit from the decision to which I disagreed,” he said.

Under the rules, the President can only choose a new chief justice from the list provided by the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC).

“If you decline a nomination, your name will not be on the list to be submitted to the President….The President has to choose from the list to be submitted to the JBC. He cannot choose outside the list,” Carpio said.

Carpio, the most senior member of the High Court, has been acting chief justice since Sereno went on indefinite leave in March. Then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo appointed him to the High Tribunal in 2001. (READ: Antonio Carpio: The man on the bench)

Asked whether being named chief justice appeared to be no longer important for him at this point of his legal career, Carpio said, “I’m going to retire so I don’t hanker for any position at this point.”

He is due to retire in October 2019, a little over a year away.

Carpio also said that the chief justice, like any other associate justice, has one vote only.

“It doesn’t mean that because you’re chief justice, the other justices will follow you,” Carpio said with a laugh. “You’ve seen it. They will follow you if your ponencia is correct, is convincing, that’s when they’ll follow you. Not because you’re chief justice.”

Carpio added that in the High Court, there is no youngest or oldest member when discussing cases. “If you’re correct, we will follow you,” he said.

Carpio was also asked about the wisdom of appointing a “very young chief justice" – Davila's apparent reference to Sereno, who was only 52 when she was appointed chief justice in 2012.

“I cannot say yes or no to that, depends on the personality of the person being appointed. You may be young, [but] you may get along with people, I think that’s okay,” he said. 

SC Associate Justice Teresita de Castro, who voted in favor of Sereno's removal via quo warranto, had criticized the ousted chief's supposed tendency to "mislead". –