By Rey Panaligan
Senior Associate Justice Antonio T. Carpio will be the acting Chief Justice starting today (May 14) until a permanent head of the Supreme Court (SC) and the country’s judiciary is appointed by President Duterte to fill up the position left by the ousting of former Chief Justice Maria Lourdes P. A. Sereno.
Under the Constitution, the President has 90 days from the date of the vacancy to appoint a replacement from the nominees submitted by the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC).
With Sereno out of the SC, the JBC would have to look for nominees not only for the post of Chief Justice but also for aspirants to fill up the post of associate justice.
But should an outsider be nominated to the SC top post and he or she is appointed by the President, there would be no need to nominate and appoint a 15th associate justice of the SC since the membership would be complete with the appointment of a new Chief Justice.
Sereno was ousted Friday when the SC, voting 8-6, granted the quo warranto petition of Solicitor General Jose Calida and declared vacant the post of Chief Justice. It then ordered the JBC – the constitutionally mandated office that accepts, screens, and nominates appointments to the judiciary – “to start the application and nomination process.”
While Sereno’s lawyers had announced they will file a motion to reconsider the SC’s May 11 decision, the High Court had ruled that “the decision is immediately executory without need of further action from the court.”
This means that even if Sereno files her motion for reconsideration, her ouster as Chief Justice and as member of the SC is immediately enforceable.
On top of looking for nominees for Chief Justice, the JBC would also accept applications for the position of associate justice
Carpio, who was born in Davao City, was appointed SC justice by then President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and assumed office on Oct. 26, 2001, his 52nd birthday. He is set to retire on Oct. 26, 2019 when he reaches the mandatory retirement age of 70 for members of the judiciary.
No hand in ouster
Meanwhile, Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador Panelo said that the President Duterte had no hand for what happened to former Chief Justice Sereno.
“Out of character sa Presidente ang nakikialam diyan sa ganiyang bagay. Unang-una, ni hindi nga siya nakikialamsakaniyangmgadepartamento, sakaniyangmga Cabinet members; eh lalonasaibangsangaynggobyerno. WalangkinalamansiPresidentediyan (It is out of the President’s character to meddle when he doesn’t even interfere with the affairs of the various departments, what more to another branch of government),” Panelo said over RadyoPilipinas.
Panelo reiterated that both quo warranto and impeachment are legal modes of removing public officers. He said impeachment removes qualified impeachable officers while quo warrantoousts unqualified public officials. (With a report from Argyll B. Geducos)