Leila: I Have I Proven Independence

3 July 2012

MANILA, Philippines - Justice Secretary Leila de Lima is standing by her decision to go after the much coveted position in the judiciary amid opposition from religious leaders and political groups.

Responding to calls from both priests and politicians to withdraw her nomination for chief justice out of "delicadeza," De Lima on Tuesday appealed asked people to respect her decision to accept her nomination to the Supreme Court.

"I'm just offering myself as an alternative to the insiders, to the other contenders, so tingnan natin if [the Judicial and Bar Council] would consider me as fit enough for that post and if short-listed, if the President also thinks that I'm worthy of that post," she told reporters in an interview.

On Monday, Lipa Archbishop Ramon Arguelles described the justice secretary's decision "as an act of bad taste."

Arguelles said the SC will lose its independence should De Lima, one of the trusted cabinet members of President Aquino, becomes the next chief justice.

House Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales Jr. and Quezon City Rep. Jorge "Bolet" Banal urged the justice secretary to withdraw her bid.

Banal said De Lima was already playing an integral role in the government as secretary of the Department of Justice (DOJ).

Gonzales said that De Lima should have declined her nomination for the sake of "delicadeza."

De Lima claims her being in Aquino's cabinet should not be taken against her in her desire to become chief justice.

She cited as proof of her independent character her handling of the cases against former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo who had appointed her as chair of the Commission on Human Rights.

"I was able to prove independence when I was in the independent constitutional body and I can do that again, I can prove again my sense of independence and my capacity for independence if I join again another independent body," she said.

De Lima said she remains confident in her track record as an election lawyer, CHR chair, and justice secretary.

"The selection process of the JBC is not a matter of the contenders proving who is the best or who is better than who but it's about aspirants proving to the JBC that he or she is worthy of consideration, that if chosen, would be able to discharge [the] mandated task with utmost fidelity," De Lima said.