THE most senior magistrate of the Supreme Court has asked SC Associate Justice Martin Villarama Jr. not to surrender his post by retiring early.
According to an unimpeachable source of The Manila Times in the High Court, Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio has talked with Villarama not to give up his place in the tribunal ahead of his official retirement.
Carpio is the most senior magistrate of the High Court—more Senior than Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Aranal-Sereno—and well-respected by his peers for being one of the “bright lights” in the SC.
He told Villarama during their meeting that it will be “ugly” for an SC magistrate to surrender his position to the President of the Philippines just to enable the country’s leader to name his 6th appointee in the High Court.
“Ang sabi ni Tony [Carpio] kay Jun [Villarama], ang pangit ng ganyan Jun na mag-early retirement ka para pagbigyan lamang si Pnoy [Aquino], para maiwasan ang midnight appointment [Carpio told Villarama, it does not look good for you to retire early just to please the President, for the President to be able to skirt the ban on midnight appointments],” The Times source said, quoting Carpio.
According to the course, it was feared that the public would lose its respect for the SC if Villarama “accommodated” the wishes of Aquino.
Villarama on Tuesday confirmed that he will retire early but denied that he was pressured by Malacañang.
A second source of The Times said Villarama may be given an ambassadorial portfolio or directorship in any of the government-owned or -controlled corporations (GOCCs) once he opted for early retirement.
A third source texted this newspaper that Villarama had intimated to the justices that he would opt for early retirement to give the President the opportunity to appoint his replacement. His decision, he said, had no strings attached because he would not ask for any concession from the Office of the President.
Villarama is expected to retire on April 14, 2016 when he reaches the mandatory retirement age of 70. If he does not retire early, Aquino won’t be able to appoint a new SC justice because the Constitution bans appointments two months before a presidential election.
The country will elect its new leaders on May 9, 2016.
Aquino has four appointees already in the High Court—Sereno, Justice Bienvenido Reyes, Justice Estela Perlas-Bernabe and Justice Marvic Leonen.
Justice Roberto Abad is expected to retire on May 22 this year.