SENIOR Associate Justice Antonio Carpio made known his intention Wednesday to be nominated for the position of Chief Justice on the condition that his nomination will be submitted to the next President.

In a letter to the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC), addressed to ex-officio Secretary Atty. Ma. Luisa Villarama, Carpio echoed the sentiments of his distant cousin, Associate Justice Conchita Carpio-Morales, who is also a contender for the post to be vacated by Chief Justice Reynato Puno upon his retirement on May 17, 2010.

Click here for stories and updates on the Sinulog 2010 Festival.

“I am truly honored to be one of those considered by the JBC for the highest position in the judiciary. I hereby manifest my interest to be nominated for the position, on the understanding that my nomination will be submitted to the next President of the Philippines, in view of the ban on presidential appointments…,” Carpio said in his January 26 letter.

The ban on presidential appointments will start on March 11, 2010 until the end of the term of President Arroyo on June 30, 2010, pursuant to Section 15, Article VII of the 1987 Constitution.

This provision states that “two months immediately before the next presidential elections and up to the end of his term, a President or Acting President shall not make appointments, except temporary appointments to executive positions when continued vacancies therein will prejudice public service or endanger public safety.”

Carpio is one of the strongest candidates for the top judicial post, being the most senior magistrate, next to Puno, in terms of service in the judiciary, having been appointed to the SC by Arroyo on October 22, 2001.

His closest rival for the post is Associate Justice Renato Corona, who has yet to reply to the letter of the JBC on whether he is accepting his nomination for chief justice.

Earlier, Associate Justices Presbitero Velasco Jr. and Antonio Eduardo Nachura have said they are not interested in the position, saying that the nomination process should be limited to the three most senior magistrates.

Carpio-Morales meanwhile said her nomination to the SC post must be submitted to the next President who will win in the 2010 election.

All five justices were automatically included in the JBC’s shortlist, although the eight-man body is still accepting nominations and endorsements for the post until February 4.

Administration ally and JBC ex-officio member, Quezon City Representative Matias Defensor, took the initiative to open the nomination and to submit a shortlist to Arroyo, four months before the actual vacancy exists in May when Puno retires, supposedly to avoid a vacuum in the position.

But such moves was met with opposition by legal groups, including constitutionalist Fr. Joaquin Bernas, who claimed the President is prohibited from making such appointment, citing Section 15, Article VII of the 1987 Constitution.

Under the JBC rules, the President has 90 days within which to appoint the next chief justice from the time the vacancy started. (JCV/Sunnex)