Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon on Tuesday urged the newly-appointed Supreme Court Chief Justice Teresita Leonardo-De Castro to avoid getting involved with all pending politically-charged cases, to remove the doubts that Duterte chose her as a “reward” for her contribution in the ouster of Atty. Maria Lourdes Sereno.
Drilon believes that the integrity of the decision on the political cases might be severely affected if De Castro would not inhibit herself.
“All questions, issues, and doubts surrounding the appointment of Chief Justice Teresita Leonardo de Castro, particularly with regard to her impartiality, can only be addressed if the newly-appointed chief magistrate refrains from participating in any political case pending before the court,” Drilon said in a statement.
“I encourage her to inhibit from politically-charged cases in order to uphold the integrity of the decision that the Supreme Court may make during her short tenure,” the minority chief said.
De Castro is one of the five SC justices who voted in favor of the Quo Warranto filed by Solicitor General Jose Calida against Sereno.
This made the critics speculate that De Castro helped the Duterte government to oust Sereno in exchange for the highest position in the judiciary.
Among the cases pending at the SC is the electoral protest of former Senator “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. against Vice President Leni Robredo.
Meanwhile, President Rodrigo Duterte denied the accusations that he appointed De Castro because of her role in the ouster of Sereno.
He explained that even before, the Supreme Court has a tradition that the most senior associate justice should be the next to be appointed as Chief Justice.
“Kung sino ‘yung naunang pumasok, siya ‘yung unang ma-promote and that would go for everybody,” President Duterte said on Monday, as he led the National Heroes Day celebration at the Libingan ng mga Bayani.
“I am not familiar of any of them actually. Wala akong kilalang justice na ‘yung personal. Truthfully, I have not talked to anyone there. Wala akong kilala. They are all strangers to me.” Duterte said, addressing the reporters
The president also condemned lawmakers Edcel Lagman and Gary Alejano who claimed that De Castro’s appointment was a mere incentive.
“I have yet to hear those guys (Alejano, Lagman) state something without malice. They always say the worst. People kagaya niyan judge best when they condemn and they have nothing to show for their time there except to blabber their mouth,” Duterte said.
He also explained that the position was not given to Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio because of the latter’s unwillingness to take the job.
However, several reports said that Carpio is now considering in applying as the next Chief Justice as De Castro’s term would only last 41 days as the latter need to follow the mandatory retirement age of 70.