Chief Justice Lucas Bersamin said Monday he would not be endorsing any aspirant for the most coveted post in the judiciary on his retirement on Oct. 18 upon reaching his mandatory retirement age of 70.
Bersamin stressed he preferred to remain neutral in the selection and appointment of his successor.
The candidates aspiring to be the next Chief Justice include senior Supreme Court Associate Justices Diosdado Peralta, Jose Reyes Jr. Andres Reyes Jr., and Estela Perlas Bernabe.
Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio and Associate Justices Alfredo Benjamin Caguioa and Marvic Leonen have declined their automatic nomination by the Judicial and Bar Council for Bersamin’s post.
Carpio is set to retire from the judiciary a week after Bersamin, also after reaching the mandatory retirement age.
“I have no preferences. I am neutral and there is not much influence I can exert,” Bersamin said in an interview over CNN Philippines.
The Judicial and Bar Council has conducted public interviews on the four candidates last week.
President Rodrigo Duterte has 90 days to pick up Bersamin’s successor after his retirement.
If Duterte made good on his promise to respect seniority in judicial appointment, then the post will go to Peralta who has been with the SC since 2009.
As to the qualification of his successor, Bersamin said one should have more emotional quotient than brilliance or intelligence.
“Less IQ more EQ since the position is very critical. If you cannot relate with the justices of the Supreme Court, the judges, even if you’re the most brilliant, you will not succeed,” Bersamin said in a mix of English and Filipino.
Nonetheless, Bersamin assured the public the SC would remain independent even if majority of the justices would be appointed by Duterte.
Leonen and Justice Alfredo Benjamin Caguioa would be the only non-Duterte appointees by the time the incumbent steps down from Malacañang in 2022.
“Whoever the President appoints, you can be sure that the Supreme Court in the deliberation of all these matters of serious concern to the nation will be very fiercely independent. We don’t want to be called as the rubber stamp court of the Executive or the Legislative. The SC is no President’s court. I can give you that assurance,” he said.
The candidate who will replace Bersamin at the helm of the SC will be Duterte’s third Chief Justice appointee, the first being Teresita Leonardo de Castro.
De Castro took the position after Maria Lourdes Sereno was removed through a quo warranto proceedings filed by the Office of the Solicitor General.
Bersamin then took over the post after De Castro retired last year, after serving only for more than two months.