President Rodrigo Duterte’s decision not to appoint Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio as chief justice of the Supreme Court had nothing with to do with their differences over the government’s South China Sea policy, Malacañang said Thursday.
“Walang kinalaman. Si Presidente hindi naman tinitingnan ‘yung background kung kalaban siya, minura siya,” presidential spokesperson Salvador Panelo told reporters.
He again cited the appointment of former presidential spokesperson Harry Roque, who backed then-Vice President Jejomar Binay in the 2016 election handily won by Duterte.
“Basta tandaan natin discretionary sa Presidente yun. Siguro marami pa siyang tinitignan na aspects,” Panelo said.
Carpio was among the five candidates for the chief justice post, which eventually went to his SC colleague, Lucas Bersamin.
Duterte did not explain in his speech in Lanao del Norte on Wednesday why he chose Bersamin, the most senior magistrate in terms of length of service in the judiciary, over Carpio, who had been the Acting Chief Justice since Teresita De Castro’s retirement last month.
Instead, the President apparently took aim at Carpio’s pronouncements urging the government to be more assertive in defending the Philippines’ sovereign rights in the disputed South China Sea.
Duterte, criticized for allegedly kowtowing to China even amid the maritime dispute, has repeatedly said that he would not provoke the Asian power into war as this would only result in “great loss to the nation.”