ASSOCIATE JUSTICE Antonio T. Carpio’s anti-China stance in its sea dispute with the Philippines will not affect his nomination for chief justice, presidential spokesman Salvador S. Panelo told a briefing yesterday.
President Rodrigo R. Duterte, who has sought closer investment and trade ties with Beijing, won’t be affected by the magistrate’s views on the territorial dispute when he appoints the next chief justice, his spokesman said.
Chief Justice Lucas P. Bersamin will retire on Oct. 18. Mr. Carpio, who has been automatically nominated for the post, will retire on Oct. 26, a week after Mr. Bersamin steps down.
Mr. Carpio is a leading critic of China in the sea dispute with the Philippines over the South China Sea, and this will be his fourth nomination for the post.
“It doesn’t matter to him,” Mr. Panelo said of Mr. Duterte. “What is important is he is highly qualified for the delicate job.”
Mr. Bersamin was appointed to the post in November last year, replacing retired Chief Justice Teresita J. Leonardo-De Castro.
Mr. Bersamin is the third most senior justice in the Supreme Court, after Mr. Carpio and Diosdado M. Peralta who also got an automatic nomination.
The three other senior associate justices who were automatically nominated for the post were Estela M. Perlas-Bernabe, Marvic Mario Victor F. Leonen and Benjamin S. Caguioa.
The nominees may choose to decline their nomination.
“The discretion to appoint the chief justice and for that matter any justice of the Supreme Court lies with the president, and he considers all factors in choosing the nominee,” Mr. Panelo said.
China claims sovereignty over more than 80 percent of the South China Sea based on its so-called nine-dash line drawn on a 1940s map.
It has been building artificial islands in the disputed Spratly Islands and setting up installations including several runways.
Mr. Carpio last week said China does not own and control the South China Sea, contrary to Mr. Duterte’s claim in justifying his foreign policy stance.
Mr. Duterte in his annual state of the nation address to Congress last month said the Philippines is not in a position to assert its rights in the disputed sea because China is in possession of it.
He blamed Benigno S. C. Aquino III, his predecessor, for allegedly giving way to China after a 2012 standoff in Scarborough Shoal that later allowed the regional power to occupy the shoal.
Mr. Aquino, sued China before an international arbitration tribunal over its territorial claims, and won. He also strengthened Philippine alliance with the US to try to check China’s expansion in the main waterway. — Arjay L. Balinbin