De Lima a ‘Trojan horse;’ Aquino meets 2 CJ aspirants-A A +A
Sunday, August 19, 2012
SUPREME Court magistrate Arturo Brion and former San Juan Representative Ronaldo Zamora, who are both aspirants for the Chief Justice position, were called to Malacanang last week, several sources said over the weekend.
The visit apparently took place before President Benigno Aquino III’s outburst Friday.
Aquino said Friday that he was not satisfied with the shortlist provided by the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC), which conducted a public interview last month to further screen the 20 nominees for the top judicial post.
Without giving the specific dates of the Chief Justice aspirants’ visits, a source, who moves closely within Palace circles, said that Brion and Zamora went to Malacanang after the JBC submitted the shortlist last Monday afternoon.
The source claimed that while Aquino’s candid statement may on its face seemed to favor disqualified aspirant Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, it could just be a “smokescreen” or a pretense in a bid to protect his real choice for the Chief Justice post from the “probing public.”
“We think that (Aquino) is playing some game and enjoying the fact that the public is taking in (his statement). We think that de Lima is just a ‘diversion’ or a ‘Trojan Horse,’” the source who requested anonymity said.
Another source said that Brion and Zamora have a good chance of being appointed for the post, since it would be to Aquino’s best interests to appoint an “interim” Chief Justice, or someone who would serve only a few years at the helm of the Supreme Court.
Zamora, now 68, served as executive secretary during the term of deposed President Joseph Estrada, and was the former San Juan representative. He will serve only two years at the Supreme Court until the mandatory retirement age of 70. It was said that his brother was a major contributor during Aquino’s presidential campaign.
Brion, who was appointed to the High Court by Aquino’s predecessor, former President now Pampanga Representative Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, in March 2008, would turn 66 on December 29. This means that if he is appointed Chief Justice, he will serve only four years or until 2016.
Vince Lazatin, a convenor and spokesman of the group Supreme Court Appointments Watch (Scaw), said that while there is a possibility that Aquino’s outburst could just be to cover up for his true choice, it was still not clear in his actions.
Lazatin also said that the appointment of Zamora does not seem to add up, but the appointment of an “insider” like Brion and another nominee, Associate Justice Roberto Abad, sounded like a good strategy.
“Appointing Zamora does not make sense, because it would look like his appointment will be a political payback. If PNoy (Aquino) opts to appoint someone for the short-term, then he might consider insiders like Brion or Abad, because then he gets to appoint a new SC justice to fill up the vacancy,” he said.
Abad was earlier dubbed by the Integrated Bar of the Philippines as a “dark horse” in the race for the Chief Justice post, after he emerged on top among the 20 nominees during a voting among members of the IBP board.
Lazatin added that Aquino should not at all be surprised with the outcome of the JBC shortlist since all nominees except one – PCGG chairman Andres Bautista – voted by Undersecretary Michael Fredrick Musngi, Palace representative in the JBC, made it to the shortlist.
Aside from Brion and Zamora, also touted as Palace favorites are Solicitor General Francis Jardeleza and Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, who now sit as acting Chief Justice.
Jardeleza served as legal counsel for Aquino’s uncle, San Miguel Corp. president Eduardo “Danding” Cojuangco, before he joined public office recently.
Carpio, on the other hand, was among those alleged by impeached Chief Justice Renato Corona of angling for his post and plotting for his ouster. The justice also topped the JBC shortlist with seven votes.
But the source said that Aquino does not “care at all” about Carpio’s connection since he “does not want to upset the politics with Vice President Jejomar Binay and Estrada.”
Binay ran against Aquino’s running mate, former Senator now Transportation Secretary Mar Roxas, during the May 2010 vice presidential race. A pending election contest was filed at the Supreme Court by Roxas, questioning Binay’s victory.
“Why will he rock the boat? That's just the way we're reading PNoy,” the source who is close to Aquino said.
The President has 90 days or until August 27 to appoint a new Chief Justice. (JCV/Sunnex)