President Noynoy Aquino will soon appoint a Chief Justice from nominees to be submitted to him by the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC).
The appointee will occupy the highest judicial post that has become vacant as a result of the conviction of erstwhile Chief Justice Renato Corona.
JBC and the President should be very careful in selecting the man or woman who would be Chief Magistrate. All-out efforts should be exerted to ensure that the Corona nightmare would not be repeated.
It is recalled that Corona was a “midnight appointee” of then outgoing President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. Because of this particular circumstance, it is safe to assume that there was not much time to study and evaluate the qualification of Corona. And it is not farfetched to say that the main criterion used in appointing him was his loyalty to the appointing authority.
As a result, the man Arroyo appointed to the exalted post of Chief Justice was not the most learned, not the most morally upright and not the wisest man for the position. This was evident when Corona testified for his own defense during the impeachment trial.
In fact, some lawyers worth their salt commented that if his testimony was a gauge, they did not see any proof that he deserved to be appointed Chief Justice. Some even remarked that Corona was intellectually challenged and that he sorely lacked subtlety in his use of language. Chief Magistrates whom he preceded were noted for their beautiful prose, witty obiter dictums and logical thinking.
If there is any lesson learned from the Corona case, it is that the appointing authority should appoint not only the best legal mind but also one whose moral standards are beyond question.
Some of the 38 nominees for the position include Justice Secretary Leila De Lima, Senator Franklin Drilon and BIR Commissioner Kim Henares. The three figured prominently during the impeachment trial. They may be qualified to be appointed for the position, but delicadeza demands that no one of them should get the post.
And precisely because of delicadeza, the three declined to be nominated or appointed Chief Justice. This is indicative of their decency, and we praise them for having this key virtue.
Who then should be appointed Chief Justice?
There are many brilliant and well respected lawyers in the roster of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines from whom the JBC could prepare a short list of nominees.
We suggest the JBC take its time to look into the personal background, track records and qualifications of the nominees.
It is imperative, though, that the most qualified and most morally upright candidate is to be appointed to the highest judicial post. If this is done, the people’s trust in the judiciary could be regained.