PRESIDENT Rodrigo R. Duterte on Monday defended his appointment of Chief Justice Teresita Leonardo-de Castro, citing the Supreme Court’s (SC) tradition of seniority.
“Kung sinong naunang pumasok, siya ang unang ma-promote (Whoever comes first, he will be promoted first) and that would go for everybody,” Mr. Duterte told reporters on Monday morning, Aug. 27, at the Libingan ng mga Bayani on the sidelines of the National Heroes Day commemoration.
He added: “And it will be the same for all justices, not only de Castro. Lahat ‘yan sila (All of them). Unless, of course, they refuse or maybe they would opt to retire o konti na lang panahon (or there is little time left). Pero kung lahat sila tatanggap, talagang train ‘yan (But if they all accept, it’s really like a train). In the Civil Service, no political colors included. Bawal ‘yan (That’s prohibited). So merit system.”
As for his critics who claim Ms. de Castro’s appointment is a reward for her role in the ouster of her predecessor, Maria Lourdes P.A. Sereno, Mr. Duterte said: “I have yet to hear those guys state something without malice. They always say the worst….People, kagaya nila (like them) judge best when they condemn.”
Asked what he expects Ms. de Castro to accomplish in less than two months until she retires on Oct. 8, Mr. Duterte said, “I am not familiar with any of them actually. They are all strangers to me.”
On the possibility of Associate Justice Antonio T. Carpio succeeding Ms. de Castro once she steps down, the President said: “He stated publicly that he is not going to accept it.”
“So why force the person to accept a task that he does not want? This is a free country….” he added.
In a message to reporters on Monday afternoon, Special Assistant to the President Christopher Lawrence T. Go said,
“CJ (Chief Justice) appointee Justice De Castro has communicated to OP (the Office of the President) that she will endeavor to take her oath at the earliest time as soon as SC is in receipt of her appointment paper that she may assume and enter into judicial functions and duties as CJ.”
“OP has scheduled on Aug. 31 for CJ to visit Malacañang and take her Ceremonial Oath before PRRD (Mr. Duterte),” Mr. Go also said. — Arjay L. Balinbin