Here is the JBC shortlist of nominees for Chief Justice:
Justice Antonio Carpio, 62 years (7 votes), Justice Roberto Abad, 68 (6 votes), Justice Arturo Brion, 65 (6 votes), Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno, 52 (6 votes), Sol. Gen. Francis Jardeleza, 62 (6 votes), Ex-Rep. Ronaldo Zamora, 68 (6 votes), Justice Teresa Leonardo de Castro, 63 (5 votes), Ex-Ateneo Dean Cesar Villanueva, 56 (5 votes).
Five of the eight are insiders, only Justice Velasco failed to make the cut. Carpio had the highest vote with Sen. Escudero the sole dissenter (His reason?). One academic and one Government official made it, no private practitioners did. (I had predicted a smaller list of 4-6 nominees that included Carpio, Sereno, Jardeleza and Villanueva).
The Palace said the President will select a Chief who is independent and reform-minded. In fact here is how he will choose:
Chemistry- The President wants a CJ he is comfortable with. This means someone who is unassuming and quietly accomplished. He does not want flash. In the shortlist, Zamora is the most outspoken and self assured, he will probably not get the Presidential nod.
Activism- The President is looking for a judicial crusader. Sereno arguably scores highest on this count.
Age- P-Noy wants his reforms to survive his Presidency. The new Chief needs time to implement his agenda. This eliminates Abad and Zamora who would have to retire before 2016.
Politics- Whatever they say, all Presidents look for Chief Justices with similar politics, they have a Government to run. This is not necessarily bad when the President is a good man and P-Noy is a good man.
Track record- The President does not forget and forgive. He is unlikely to choose a CJ who has been on the other side of his Government on the “midnight” appointment of Corona, the Truth Commission, the overturn of EO 2 on overstaying GOCC officers, the impeachment of Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez, the dollar account of Corona and the TRO on GMA’s travel ban. Where they have not inhibited themselves or been on leave, Carpio and Sereno voted with the Administration on all the above; Brion and De Castro voted against; and Abad voted against on 4 of the 6 issues.
On Hacienda Luisita, the SC voted 14-0 (Carpio inhibited himself) in favor of the farmers but was split on whether to compensate the Cojuangco family based on 1989 land values or the higher figure as of 2006. Brion, de Castro and Abad voted for the former, Sereno for the latter.
On these tallies, Brion, Abad and de Castro are unlikely to be appointed Chief Justice, ditto for Zamora on age and personality type, and Villanueva who was never really in it. This leaves Jardeleza, Sereno and Carpio.
Jardeleza is an outsider who will have to learn the ropes. He comes from the Executive which raises questions on the President’s motives; and had a long corporate association which could hamper his independence.
A Presidential favorite, Sereno was his first SC appointment. She is passionate about her work. She fits P-Noy’s personality profile. The President likes strong women in sensitive posts, witness Morales as Ombudsman and De Lima in the DOJ. The questions would be her age (she would serve for 18 years), her limited tenure and her leadership among the elders.
Carpio, the most senior Justice, is the natural heir to the position, the post is his to lose. He is a GMA appointee but voted against her on the TRO travel ban and when she sought the change in the Constitution; so he is nobody’s stooge. He has gone with the Government on landmark cases so he shares the President’s reform agenda. He is legally fit and is the right age. He has the tenure and respect to lead the Court. In the absence of valid contra-indicators, the President could be hard-pressed to justify by-passing him.
Filipinos trust the President will select a leader, a patriot and a visionary to head the Court. The person must be wise. He/she should uphold the Constitution but know there is more than it. He should be an activist who will not wait for the law to come to him but will bring the law to the people. He should be above politics but not be oblivious to it. He must know the ways of the street without being of it. He must have the respect of his peers and the nation.
The President is not happy with the JBC list so he must have wanted somebody else, but he will play by the rules. Hopefully he will select a true and equal partner in governance who will work with him and not for him.
His choice will be one of his most important legacies to the country.
(P.S. Our prayers are with the family of Sec. Robredo. He is a good man).