MANILA -- President Benigno Aquino III on Friday expressed readiness to break the tradition and appoint an outsider to the highest post in the judiciary.
"If I remember the Constitution correctly, it is stated there that the Judicial and Bar Council will give me a list and that’s where I will choose but there is no injunction there that limits it to current members of the Supreme Court," Aquino said in an interview during the First River Summit in Iloilo City.
The President said he has his utmost regard to the usual practice in appointing a chief justice but he also wanted reform in the judiciary.
"Yung tradition is a good consideration. But what is important is the efficiency of the institution and serving and addressing our people’s need," he said.
He expressed hesitation on selecting the next chief justice from the incumbent associate justices since most of them are still observing a Supreme Court resolution in 1989 that prohibited the disclosure of SALNs of justices and judges.
Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, a perceived Aquino ally, sat as acting Chief Justice on Wednesday after the ouster of Renato Corona by the Senate impeachment court.
On the same day, the Supreme Court approved the public disclosure of assets statements of judges and justices, for 2011 but guidelines for such release will have to be discussed in a special en banc session on June 13.
He said all public officials should declare their SALN to the public in accordance with the 1987 Constitution.
The President said "there is a very distinct possibility" that the next chief justice can come from the outside.
The names of Justice Secretary Leila de Lima and Bureau of Internal Revenue Commissioner Kim Henares came out as among those considered for the post.
Sought for comment, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said she "will cross the bridge" only after the opportunity to be appointed will be presented.
"Let the JBC (Judicial and Bar Council) do the process first," she told reporters.
If she will accept any nomination to be the next top magistrate, de Lima must inhibit in the deliberations of the JBC being a member of the vetting body.
Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima believes that Henares is qualified for the chief justice position, but stressed that he will not be the one nominating her to the JBC.
“I have such high regard for her. I think if given the opportunity, she’ll do a great job,” he said in a media briefing on Friday.
Purisima cited that Henares is not only a lawyer but a certified public accountant (CPA) and has worked both in the government and the private sector.
Aquino has 90 days to choose who will replace former Chief Justice Renato Corona, who was found guilty of betrayal of public trust and culpable violation of the Constitution during the five-month long impeachment trial for failure to fully disclose assets in his SALN.
The JBC, which is a constitutional body tasked to screen and submit nominees for vacant judicial post to the President, will hold a special session on Monday.
Traditionally, the President can only appoint judges and justices from the short list provided by the JBC. (Jill Beltran/Virgil Lopez/Sunnex)