Too talkative
TO THE QUICK - Jerry Tundag (The Freeman) - November 13, 2019 - 12:00am

Now that he has retired, some people have taken to calling former Supreme Court associate justice Antonio Carpio as the best Chief Justice the Philippines never had. The best probably, but not Chief Justice. To be Chief Justice requires more than just the superior intelligence of an Antonio Carpio. Even more than superior intelligence, a Chief Justice must be prudent, circumspect, and disciplined.

Sorry to those who think so highly of Carpio, but I think he just did not have the three above-mentioned qualities that, with superior intelligence, would have made him what they say he is --the best Chief Justice the Philippines never had. In fact, I think the Philippines is extremely lucky it never got around to having Carpio appointed to the highest position in the judiciary.

To me Carpio was too talkative, too opinionated, to even be an ordinary judge. He cannot keep his thoughts to himself. A judge, much less a Supreme Court justice, before whom important issues affecting individuals and larger societies are brought for resolution, need to be prudent, circumspect, and disciplined. They cannot retail their views at the drop of a hat.

And that is the way Carpio was, especially with his views on South China Sea issues, issues that involve foreign policy and national security, issues that he cannot and must not publicly dissect unless formally brought to him as a case for judicial resolution. Carpio cannot invoke free speech or personal privilege without compromising the sanctity of a decision he might be asked at some later time to render.

If Carpio had been bypassed for appointment as Chief Justice several times, he does not need to look far for a reason. He only has himself to blame. And if he says he never aspired for the position anyway, then I would say he is either not telling the whole truth, or he is not normal. It has always been the nature of humans to be able to climb the ladder of success. For what the heck do we work so hard for and try to excel in what we do?

Now do not get me wrong. I salute Carpio for his superior intelligence and I, as a journalist, would be the last person to deny him his right to speak his mind. But then again, there is no such thing as absolute freedom, only an appropriate time for everything. As a justice of the Supreme Court, Carpio cannot just speak his mind anytime he wishes to speak it.

Prudence, circumspection, and discipline are not impediments to one's enjoyment of rights and freedoms. They are merely definitions of character. And it is he of great character that knows whereof to speak and when not to open his mouth. And for someone not to get something as elementary as that is, to me, the single biggest drawback to appointment to something as sensitive as a Chief Justice.

But now that he is retired, Carpio can now cry himself hoarse about anything he fancies discussing. He can talk as frequently and as lengthily as he pleases about anything, but most especially about his pet concern, the South China Sea. He can even run for president in 2022 on a platform consisting of nothing else but maritime entitlements for the Philippines.

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