Transition starts
COMMONSENSE - Marichu A. Villanueva1 (The Philippine Star) - May 10, 2016 - 10:00am

Like his immediate predecessor, presumptive President-elect Davao City Mayor Rodrigo “Rody” Duterte would not be sworn into office by the incumbent Supreme Court (SC) chief justice. As the country’s first leader ever elected through automated polls on June 30, 2010, President Benigno “Noy” Aquino III had then senior SC associate justice Conchita Carpio-Morales to administer his oath of office in rites held at the Quirino Grandstand.

Ominous of things to come his way, then chief justice Renato Corona took in stride President Aquino’s affront to his leadership of the country’s judiciary. Corona even attended the ceremonies at Luneta only as among the guests while President Aquino was sworn in.

Duterte appears to be the landslide winner in the just concluded presidential race with 95 percent of the unofficial results already tallied.

Traditionally, the sitting chief justice administers the oath of office of the new President of the Republic. But breaking tradition and protocol, President Aquino wanted to make loud and clear his unwritten statement with this gesture of having Morales instead to perform the ceremony for him.

It was getting back at Corona’s purported “midnight appointment” by former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo a month before she stepped down from office on June 30, 2010. Corona was subsequently removed as chief justice at the end of the Senate impeachment trial in May 2012 for alleged betrayal of public trust and failure to declare his assets and properties in his Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net worth (SALN).

Following Morales’ retirement from the SC, P-Noy appointed her as Ombudsman with a fixed term of seven years in office ending in July 2018. Meanwhile, Corona passed away last April 29 at age 67 while still waging court battles for graft allegations and tax litigations.

Incidentally, all 42,000 barangay chiefs nationwide are authorized to administer oaths of officials, including the new President elected on Monday’s polls. This is by virtue of Republic Act 10755 that President Aquino signed last March 29.

During our presidential roundtable with Duterte last week, the Davao mayor intimated that he would request either one of his two “brothers” in fraternity and classmates at the San Beda College of Law Class 1972 to administer his oath of office at Malacañang.

The two are SC Associate Justices Bienvenido Reyes and Jose Mendoza. Unfortunately, Duterte noted his two “brods” are due to retire one after the other this year under the mandatory age of retirement of 70 years old. Reyes is retiring on July 6 while Mendoza is on Aug. 13.

Duterte, who turned 71 years old last March, acknowledged the need to restore at the SC the time-honored and traditional seniority rule in the appointment of chief justice. A very much junior and one of his appointees at the SC, President Aquino broke this tradition when he named Ma. Lourdes Sereno as chief justice following the impeachment of Corona.

Despite being the most junior and newest member of the high tribunal, Sereno was included in the supposed “short list” of nominees for chief justice that was submitted to President Aquino by the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC).

If he becomes President, Duterte would be the appointing authority of 10 vacancies at the SC during his next six years in office. This included the two vacancies resulting from the scheduled retirement of Reyes and Mendoza. For starters, Duterte said he would like the JBC to submit nominees to the SC that must be at least 60 years of age.

As one of the pillars of the criminal justice system, Duterte believes the courts or the judiciary play an important role in stamping out the social menace of crimes and drugs.

Having served as prosecutor at the Davao City fiscal’s office for several years, Duterte has a first hand experience what ails the country’s criminal justice system.

He came under fire from his rivals and human rights groups with his public avowals to “kill all criminals. But Duterte painstakingly explained during The STAR roundtable why he has to make such public pronouncements. This is only to send a very strong message and strike fear in the hearts of criminals and other evil-doers, Duterte cited. He has to project to public his toughness to confront the criminality and illegal drug trade problem in our society.

Duterte boldly staked to step down from the presidency if he cannot deliver this promise to end the high crime incidence in three to six months.

To carry out his anti-crime campaign, Duterte disclosed he would like to take out the Philippine National Police (PNP) from being under the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG). He also wants to utilize the Army, one of the service commands of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), in the intensified campaign against criminalities.

Duterte is likewise confident to get the support of the men in uniform. By the way, he is the adopted son of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) Class 1967. Among Duterte’s few remaining “mistah” is former Intelligence Service of the Armed Forces of the Philippines chief Victor Corpus who left the academy and joined the communist rebels.

Duterte described himself as “left of center” to brush aside fears about his communist links. Duterte was scored for his promise to communist leader Jose Ma. Sison to restart government peace negotiations with them. Precisely, Duterte stressed, the peace talks would be the first step to achieving peace and order in our country.

With such plans in place, Duterte is not speaking empty rhetoric during the campaign.

Despite his tough public persona, Duterte, however, broke down in tears yesterday when he paid respects to his parents’ tomb in Davao City. This was hours after election results showed Duterte will definitely head to Malacanang to become the country’s next President.

The last time he broke down in tears, he told us, was when he flew to Leyte and saw several dead people and the wanton destruction of Super Typhoon Yolanda in his birthplace.

Yesterday, Duterte formally promised to put a rest to his foul-mouthed antics, which he could get away with as a mayor. From hereon, a more presidential Duterte will speak and act in public.

While still in transition, Duterte promised to hit the ground running as soon as he assumes the presidency.

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