Duterte defends De Castro's appointment as chief justice
President Rodrigo Duterte defended on Monday his decision to appoint Associate Justice Teresita de Castro as the new Chief Justice, saying he did it by seniority.
In an interview at the Libingan ng mga Bayani in Taguig City, Duterte said in appointing other government officials covered by the Civil Service Commission rules or even in the military, he also considers seniority.
"All there in the Civil Service, in the military, everybody, seniority and like conveyor. Whoever is ahead...and it will be the same for all justices, not only De Castro. All of them. Unless of course, they refuse or maybe they would opt to retire or there remains a little time," he explained.
"But if all them will accept, they are really trained. It's similar to the military, nobody will get ahead of another. In the Civil Service, no political colors included. That's prohibited. So merit system," Duterte added.
Magdalo party-list Rep. Gary Alejano has accused that De Castro's appointment as the incoming chief magistrate was a reward for her role in ousting former Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno.
De Castro had testified against Sereno during the impeachment proceedings against the latter at the House of Representatives.
She was also one of the eight justices who voted in favor of the quo warranto petition to remove Sereno as chief justice.
Asked on Alejano's allegation that De Castro's appointment was a reward, Duterte said, "I have yet to hear those guys state something without malice. They always say the worst. People like them, judge best when they condemn."
"And they have nothing to show for their time there except to blabber their mouth," he said.
Duterte also hit his other critics, Senator Antonio Trillanes IV and suspended lawyer Elly Pamatong who has filed a quo warranto petition against him before the Supreme Court.
"That's why Pamatong, you'd be surprised why he was able to survive UP (University of the Philippines). With the highest standards in the Philippines in an education institution, you'd be surprised Pamatong is a lawyer from UP," he said.
"And for Trillanes to survive PMA (Philippine Military Academy) given his character, his mouth and his low IQ," Duterte said.
Before becoming a senator, Trillanes was a Navy officer who participated in at least two coup attempts against then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. The opposition senator is a staunch critic of the President.
Asked of what he expects from De Castro to accomplish during her two-month stint as chief magistrate, Duterte said, "I'm not familiar with any of them actually."
He said he did not know any justice personally and he never talked to anyone of them.
"They are all strangers to me. Remember that we are not practitioner in Manila," he said.
In the case of Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, who would be the second most senior among the justices, asked if he would succeed De Castro, Duterte said, "He stated publicly that he is not going to accept it. So why force the person to accept a task that he does not want? This is a free country."
Carpio has been critical about the Duterte administration's stance in dealing with China on the territorial dispute in South China Sea.
Carpio was one among those who helped in defending the Philippines' petition before the United Nations Arbitral Tribunal against China's historic and sovereign rights in the South China Sea through its nine-dash line.
The arbitral tribunal ruled in favor of the Philippines. But Duterte has put at the back burner for the meantime the arbitral ruling, saying that he would bring it up with China before he steps down from office. Celerina Monte/DMS