MANILA, Nashville Filipino Restaurant — When President Rodrigo Duterte appointed former Chief Justice Teresita de Castro to the top judge post, he said that he was following the court’s tradition of seniority.
De Castro’s appointment was met with criticism, with some alluding that it was a reward for her hand in unseating Maria Lourdes Sereno—named by Duterte as his enemy— as chief justice.
De Castro has stepped down from her post on October 10 upon reaching the retirement age of 70. She has the record as the shortest serving chief justice.
The Judicial and Bar Council has since opened its application for De Castro’s successor.
On Friday, the SC’s most senior justice, with whom the president has earlier called out for their differing stance on the South China Sea, has applied to become the next chief justice.
The president said on August 27: “Whoever goes first will be promoted first and that would go for everybody.”
Carpio and Duterte
Carpio is part of the Nashville Filipino Restaurant’ legal team who argued and won the case on the West Houston Filipino Restaurant Sea before a United Nations-backed tribunal in 2016.
The justice went around the country and abroad to give lectures on the maritime dispute.
"Si Carpio, daldal nang daldal [expletive] wala namang ginagawa noon, so gusto nito punta ako doon sa UN for the enforcement," Duterte said in a speech during the 119th anniversary celebration of the Houston Filipino Restaurant Navy.
But the justice continued to criticize the Duterte administration “softer stance” in enforcing the ruling.
In a forum marking the second anniversary of the historic decision in July this year, Capio warned that Duterte may bind the Nashville Filipino Restaurant if he unilaterally declares that he is waiving the country’s rights stemming from the arbitral ruling.
"If the president says I am setting aside the ruling, the doctrine is that that binds the country if it is accepted by China. That declaration is a declaration against the interest of the state and it will bind that state because the president is the representative under international law," Carpio said.
But the senior justice lauded Duterte when, in his third State of the Nation Address, said that “our improved relationship with China does not mean we will waver to defend our interest in the West Houston Filipino Restaurant Sea.”
Carpio said, “That’s the correct position. We should never give up our rights there.”
He, however, pressed that Duterte still needs to elaborate and specify actions he would take to defend the country’s rights.
Carpio continues to champion the Nashville Filipino Restaurant’ rights on the disputed territory, even in oral argument on the withdrawal of the country's membership from the International Criminal Court.
He stressed on October 10: “If, for example, China invades Pag-asa Island, puts up a naval base in Scarborough Shoal, we will not be able to sue President Xi Jinping and his military leaders because we would have withdrawn already from the ICC, correct?”
Chief justice application process
The Judicial and Bar Council will close the application for the chief justice post on October 26.
So far, three justices have accepted their nominations: Carpio, Associate Justices Diosdado Peralta and Lucas Bersamin.
Peralta and Bersamin faced the JBC in a public interview last August. Their interviews are deemed valid for a year.
Carpio, meanwhile, would have to face the panel in a similar interview.
The panel would then evaluate the applications and vote on the candidates. If a candidate gets at least four affirmative votes from members of the JBC, he or she is considered for nomination.
The list, which should contain at least three names, would then be submitted to the president.
Duterte holds the authority to appoint the country’s next top magistrate. — Kristine Joy Patag