It’s a 3-way race for Chief Justice. Or is it?
Puno. Panganiban. Quisumbing. The three Senior Associate Justices, in that order, have declared their availability to be considered for Chief Justice. Of the three, Justice Puno enjoys the edge in seniority, intellect and vision; however, of the three, it appears that Panganiban enjoys the edge where it counts: the appointing power’s graces.
The Supreme Court is the third branch of government; the Chief Justice of the Philippines is the head of that branch. He should not be beholden—nor perceived to be beholden—to the appointing power. Nor should the appointing power be perceived to be making the Chief Justice beholden to it.
But, hello? Reality check. This is Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s government we’re talking about. In a word: shameless. In another word: corrupt. In yet another word: Unprincipled. I can go on but to make it easier for you, look up all adjectives for “rotten”, “evil”, “corrupt”, “unprincipled”, “shameless”, “brazen” and “illegitimate”, and you have words to describe Gloria’s government. Don’t get me started on Bunyi, Gonzales and Gonzalez; and please let’s not even go to De Venecia and Ramos. But I digress.
I am not a rabid fan of Justice Puno. I didn’t agree with his ruling in the Gloria Arroyo legitimacy issue. However, he is the best alternative of the three. His intellect cannot be disputed. His writing style is elegant and magisterial. His positions on (some) progressive issues ahead of his time. His elevation to Chief Justice is also the best way to show that, despite Gloria, some things still can be counted on, as a matter of principle.
However, with the recent appointment of Mercy Gutierrez, Mike Arroyo’s law school classmate and personal counsel to Gloria Arroyo, as Ombudsman, it doesn’t look too good for principled stands, progressive legal advocacies and intelligent discourses on the rule and role of law.
Suddenly, that 3-way race is starting to look like a rout.