July 24, 2012 · Posted in: General
JUSTICE SECRETARY Leila de Lima says she wants to “inculcate” the values of President Benigno S. Aquino’s “Matuwid na Daan” slogan in the Supreme Court if she is chosen to be the country’s next Chief Justice.
De Lima made the statement even as she stressed that she would remain independent from Malacanang if she becomes the next head of the high tribunal.
During the first day of interviews of aprirants for the position of Supreme Court Chief Justice conducted by the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC), De Lima said that while she agrees with the principles of good governance as espoused by President Aquino, she would still remain independent from the appointing power.
The question of her independence was raised during the JBC interview in light of De Lima’s prominent role in blocking the flight of former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo from the country and her testimony against impeached Chief Justice Renato Corona. Corona was convicted by the Senate impeachment court last May 29 for failure to disclose all his assets as required by law.
The JBC today began interviewing the first of the 22 aspirants for the post of Chief Justice to replace Corona. First to be interviewed by the JBC was Presidential Commission on Good Government chairman Andres Bautista. Bautista told the JBC that the next Chief Justice must lead by example, and should be fully transparent and accountable.
During her interview, De Lima said that she has shown her independence in all her previous appointments. A former election lawyer, she was chosen by then President Arroyo to be chairperson of the Commission on Human Rights. When President Aquino was elected into office in 2010, De Lima was appointed Justice Secretary.
“The matter of independence, the matter of a high sense of independence is pretty much a question of character of the person.” De Lima told the JBC.
“I am an alter ego (of the President) and I am presumed to be in agreement with the political direction of the administration,” she added. “Most, if not all.”
“I would not have accepted (my position) if I did not agree with the thrust of good governance and accountability. The Matuwid na Daan is a laudable ideal, and it is something I wish to inculcate in the judiciary if and when I get this post (of Chief Justice),” De Lima added.
“I know that people expect me to discharge my mandate with the highest sense of independence.” De Lima said.
De Lima also brushes aside questions over her alleged refusal to recognize an earlier Supreme Court order that suspended her travel ban against former President Arroyo. De Lima said there was “no such defiance” on her part, as there was “no lawful order” in place yet when the former President attempted to leave the country.
“I did not willingly defy that TRO (temporary restraining order),” De Lima told the JBC. The issue was raised through questions sent through social networking sites to the JBC members.
“It was a matter of a former Presidnet hurriedly and prematurely leaving the country despite the pendency of the case and despite the non-serving of the official copy of the TRO,” De Lima said.
“Alam naman natin na sa rules of court, may personal or substituted service,” De Lima said. “As of November 15 (2011), late afternoon nung inissue ng SC ang TRO, pero wala kaming natanggap.”
De Lima added that there was no full compliance yet by the former President of the conditions set by the SC allowing her to leave. De Lima said she had no way at that point of validating whether the conditions set by the Supreme Court had already been met on the part of the former President. As such, she would not do anything until this is verified, she said.
Apparently unsatisfied with De Lima’s answer, Associate Justice Diosdado Peralta, acting as JBC chair, pointed out that De Lima was in effect talking about a “conditional” obedience to rulings by a court.
Peralta asked De Lima what she would do if she received an injunction from any court of law that she did not agree with. “As a rule, what should you do?”
To this, De Lima replied: “If on the face of the order it appears to be regular, it appears to be clear in terms of tenor and language, then there is no option but to obey.”
“So conditional?” Peralta asked De Lima.
“It depends on what it says in the TRO,” De Lima replied.
Peralta then reminded De Lima that lawyers are all taught to obey all lawful orders of any court. If any lawyer disagrees with a court order, then that lawyer may only file the necessary motions questioning the ruling.
“You state your grounds, rather than just disobey it,” Peralta told De Lima.
“But sometimes previous situations and circumstances of the case would warrant a different treatment,” De Lima replied.
De Lima also said that she thinks the next Chief Justice must not be “unreachable” to the public.
“It is not enough for the Chief Justice to be the embodiment of someone unreachable or untouchable or limitless or unfathomable wisdom.” she said. “We need a Chief Justice who, while maintaining a high sense of independence and impartiality who is not perceived to be out of touch with the needs of the public.