Acting Chief Justice Antonio Carpio in a file photo.

MANILA — Acting Chief Justice Antonio Carpio said it is time for the judiciary and the entire nation to move forward from the impeachment trial that led to the ouster of Renato Corona from the top Supreme Court (SC) position.

“We have to move forward. We have to learn the lessons from the impeachment and I think we can do the job,” he told reporters in an interview during the launch of the book “The History of the Supreme Court” that coincided with the SC’s 111th founding anniversary.

The most senior justice in the High Court said he has not yet decided on whether to accept or decline his nomination for the Chief Justice post, advising the media to just await his letter to the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC), which he said would also address calls for him to beg off for reasons of delicadeza due to his perceived rivalry with Corona.

Carpio also refused to answer public allegations earlier hurled by Corona against him — that he was supposedly part of the conspiracy perpetrated by President Benigno Aquino III for the latter’s impeachment.

“I don’t have to answer that,” he said.

But Carpio could not help but dispute Corona’s claim that the impeachment trial was an affront to the judiciary and had a chilling effect on the institution.

“The impeachment was not a clash between the judiciary and the legislative or the judiciary and the executive. The impeachment was against a particular justice, so there’s no clash of the three departments here,” he said.

“When the Constitution provides that justices and other constitutional officers are subject to impeachment, it doesn’t mean that if an impeachment complaint is filed against that person, the entire institution is already charged. I don’t think that’s the intention of the Constitution; the Constitution doesn’t say that,” he added.

Asked if the impeachment had a chilling effect on the SC, Carpio replied: “I don’t know. It doesn’t have a chilling effect on me.”

Carpio was the rival of Corona for the top judicial post in 2010, but he declined his nomination, believing then President and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo had no power to make the appointment.

In one of his public speeches while facing impeachment, Corona had accused a justice “who had long wanted to be chief justice” of conspiring with others in power to oust him and control the judiciary.

Several quarters had also urged Carpio to decline the nomination so as not to aggravate the division in government brought about by Corona’s ouster.

Carpio said he would not feel bad should the President choose not to appoint him.

“There is nothing in the Constitution which says that the most senior justice should be appointed, so it’s the prerogative of the President to appoint from anyone in the list submitted by the JBC. That’s the right of the President, that’s the power given to him by the Constitution and I respect the Constitution,” he said.

He vowed to support whoever would be appointed by Mr. Aquino.

But he also clarified: “We are also independent, so it doesn’t mean that if the CJ has a certain position, we will just follow.”

Unifying personality

Meanwhile, retired Chief Justice Reynato Puno lamented the repercussions to the judiciary of the impeachment and removal of his successor Corona, as he called for the appointment of a new Supreme Court chief who would unite and heal the judiciary.

“Today, the judiciary appears to be in disarray after the impeachment of our 23rd chief justice. Some are disappointed, some are confused, some appeared to be in a spiritual slump for they perceived a severely wounded judiciary after its collision with the political branches of the government,” he said in his speech during the book launching Monday.

“The SC has a life of its own. With the aid of divine providence, it was established by the people and for as long as it serves the people, nothing will prevail against it. The Court may be down for the moment but with God’s grace it will not stay down for long,” he said.

Puno left the SC without greeting Carpio, whom he addressed in his speech as senior associate justice and not acting chief justice.

Puno headed the JBC that unanimously nominated Corona to be chief justice in May 2010.

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