The best chief justice PH never had? Carpio says 'that's the way it is'

Gillan Ropero, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 31 2019 08:32 AM | Updated as of Oct 31 2019 08:58 AM

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MANILA - "That's the way it is."

Retired Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio on Thursday said he considers as a compliment when people say he was the "best Chief Justice the Philippines never had."

"It’s the prerogative of the president to appoint. If you’re not appointed, you cannot complain because that’s in the Constitution," he told ANC's Headstart.

"Of course I was disappointed, everybody will be disappointed if you are not promoted and you applied but of course as a constitutionalist, I know that’s the prerogative of the president. You can’t do anything about that."

Among those who have tagged Carpio as the "best Chief Justice" the country never had was his former colleague Associate Justice Marvic Leonen and detained Sen. Leila de Lima, whose imprisonment he opposed.

Carpio, who retired on Oct. 26 after 18 years at the high court, penned 935 long decisions, 79 dissenting opinions, 30 concurring opinions, 13 separate opinions and 4 concurring and dissenting opinions, with no backlog.

Asked how he did it, Carpio answered: "Just plain hard work."

"You have to manage your docket and if there’s a case that’s filed that’s assigned to you, I always require a comment," he said.

"You have to act on it right away. If you postpone it for a year or two, you’re forced to write a long decision already, but if you act on it immediately, you can dismiss it with a minute resolution."

The decision Carpio is proudest of was the Lambino v Comelec case, where the group of Raul Lambino and Erico Aumentado attempted to change the 1987 Constitution through a people's imitative.

"The issue there was whether we would convert to parliamentary or remain presidential by a mere people’s initiative. That would require an overhaul of the Constitution, the structure. That’s not supposed to happen in a peoples initiative," Carpio said.

"I wasn’t pressured because I refused to be pressured and talk about it with anyone. If you adopt that policy from the start, then they will respect you, they will not try to pressure you anymore."

Carpio said he based his decisions on the law and evidence, and jokingly admitted that he may have lost "a lot of friends" along the way.

"The guide was every justice has to apply the Constitution, period. Apply the law, then that’s it," he said.

"In private practice, you have a client and you have to do your best to protect the interest of your client. But as a judge, your role is to just apply the law regardless of the parties, of what will happen."

Although he spent nearly 2 decades at the Supreme Court, Carpio said he wishes that he could have more time to help craft more rules in expediting cases.

"I did come out with a judicial affidavit rule when I was acting Chief Justice, and I think that cut down trial work by 50 percent at least but I had to do my work also in the Supreme Court so I didn’t have more time in streamlining the rules of court," he said.

Carpio, meanwhile, welcomed the decision of newly-installed Chief Justice Diosdado Peralta to appoint officials to the high court's Judicial Integrity Board and Corruption Prevention and Investigation Office.

"I’ve talked to him actually during my retirement and I said that will he implement the creation (of the offices)? And he said yes, that will be my priority and in fact in the flag ceremony that Monday he said I will implement it," Carpio said.

"I’m happy because that’s the last pillar in maintaining an honest judiciary."