By Chay Florentino Hofileña
(Newsbreak wrote this profile on Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonio T Carpio in a Dec 4, 2006 issue. We are republishing it now as Carpio, being the most senior justice in the High Tribunal, becomes acting chief justice, following the removal of Renato Corona. A PDF version of the story as published on Newsbreak is embedded below.)
MANILA, Philippines – “Let us not…delude ourselves into believing that a new constitution would immediately eradicate the ills that plague our country. Nor can we expect that tinkering with the constitution will totally purge it of its defects and make this nation great again…. One thing we cannot afford to overlook nor downgrade is the importance of the human element. A basically workable constitution or law can become defective in the hands of enthroned rascals, as we are now experiencing,” wrote Antonio Tirol Carpio.
No, this was not written recently but was penned by him when he was a 20-year-old senior economics student of the Ateneo de Manila University in 1969. Published in The Guidon, of which Carpio was then editor in chief, the piece mirrored tumultuous times.
Before graduating in 1970, Carpio wrote in his last editorial about the seeming inevitability of a revolution, given the pervasive and severe inequity prevailing at the time. Yet he lamented the fragmentation of revolutionary forces and their inability to overhaul the system. “A revolution is something that cannot be left to accident. It has to be a deliberate and organized action.”
A son of the First Quarter Storm, the first months of 1970 that were marked by massive student protests against Ferdinand Marcos’s rule, Carpio would become Supreme Court (SC) justice 31 years later on Oct 22, 2001, and at 52, be the youngest appointee at that by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
Today, he’s caught in the vortex of public opinion because of his biting language in his ponencia on people’s initiative. But Carpio—according to those who know him—is just being consistent. His decision on Charter amendments via what appears to be a rushed and personal-agenda-driven people’s initiative is not radically different from his early views as a young student leader, they say.
The repressive Marcos years which he saw and experienced as a law student at the University of the Philippines from 1970 to 1975 shaped and left a deep imprint on him. After all, Edgar Jopson and Eman Lacaba, student activists during Carpio’s time, were among the Ateneo batchmates whom he lost to the “revolution.”
At UP, radicalism was predominant among students who organized and joined often violent demonstrations against the Marcos regime. Although student organizations were not recognized then, fraternities became an outlet of rage and violence, and Carpio, as head of the Sigma Rho fraternity during his time, got caught in the tides.
Sigma Rhoans entangled with rival Alpha Phi Betans who, at the time, were headed by Oscar Orbos, who would later become congressman and then governor of Pangasinan. The ensuing rumble resulted in casualties on both sides and, following command responsibility, fraternity leaders Orbos and Carpio were suspended from law school for a year. Orbos managed to have his suspension reduced to one semester, however, and graduated on time in 1975.
Carpio, who was a year ahead of Orbos and was in third year when the rumble erupted, ended up graduating in 1975 instead of 1974. “This was part of the adventure of growing up,” says an Alpha Phi Beta member who recalls events that happened at the time.
It was in UP, too, that Carpio was introduced by former beauty queen and later activist Nelia Sancho to his future wife, Vietnamese Ruth Nguyen, with whom he would have two children, now both college graduates.
“It was useless to be a lawyer then,” Carpio told people he knew before he was appointed to the SC, but he nevertheless pursued his law studies “because his father wanted him to.” His father Bernardo Carpio, who was former regional director of the Bureau of Internal Revenue in Davao, wanted his youngest to be a lawyer like him.
When martial law was declared in 1972, Carpio was in his second year in law school and like most law students, was reading the SC decision on the case of “Javellana vs Executive Secretary,” of then Alejandro Melchor. In that case, the High Court ruled that the 1973 Constitution drafted by the 1971 Constitutional Convention was ratified in accordance with the 1935 Constitution.
What made the decision controversial at the time was the declaration of martial law in the middle of the convention in 1972 and the absence of real debates on the draft Constitution that Marcos wanted the people to ratify through a plebiscite.
“It was a decision issued under the gun of the martial law regime,” Carpio is quoted by an associate as having previously said. It was precisely the repression of the period that left an indelible mark on the man who would become SC justice. It would also explain some of the important decisions he penned as a member of the High Court.
The path to FVR [...]
Read the full story >> Antonio Carpio: The man on the bench
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Carpio is acting Chief Justice
All SC justices agree to release SALNs
MANILA, Philippines (3rd UPDATE) – Supreme Court (SC) Associate Justice Antonio Carpio is now the acting chief justice following the Senate’s conviction of ex-chief magistrate Renato Corona.
In a press conference Wednesday, acting SC spokesperson Ma. Victoria Gleoresty Guerra said Carpio became acting chief justice since he is the most senior member of the court.
“It’s by operation of law because he’s the senior justice,” she said.
Guerra also announced that all SC justices have decided to release their respective statement of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN) in the aftermath of Corona’s conviction.
“It was the collective decision of the Court to release the SALNs in full, not [just] summaries,” she said.
She said this decision was reached during a special full-court meeting called by Carpio.
“It’s for transparency and accountability,” Guerra said.
Marquez leaves SC PIO
Guerra was also appointed as acting SC Public Information Office (PIO) chief. She will be co-terminus with Carpio.
She temporarily replaces Jose Midas Marquez, whose role as SC spokesman ended with the ouster of Corona.
“He’s [Marquez] still the court administrator, which is a permanent position,” she said.
“His [Marquez’s] being the spokesman was just an additional [job]. As he said to us, it’s already overdue that he give up his [spokesman's] duties,” Guerra said.
The co-terminus employees in the Office of the Chief Justice who worked for Corona were given employment extensions of 30 more days.
The Senate on Tuesday found Corona guilty of betrayal of public trust and culpable violation of the Constitution for not disclosing his SALN as required under the Constitution.
Twenty senators voted to convict, and only 3 voted to acquit Corona.
Guerra said the guidelines on the release of the SALNs will be taken up during a special full-court meeting on June 13.
Before Corona’s impeachment trial, the SC policy on the release of the justices’ SALNs was only upon request, except in cases where “the request is not made in good faith and for a legitimate purpose, but to fish for information and, with the implicit threat of its disclosure, to influence a decision…”
No request for justices’ SALNs was ever approved prior to Corona’s impeachment.
SC Clerk of Court Enriqueta Vidal initially decided against turning over Corona’s SALN to the impeachment court when she testified last January 18, since she had not gotten the court’s clearance. She eventually turned them over after she was ordered to do so by the impeachment court.
The Office of the Clerk of Court is the repository of justices’ SALNs.
Corona’s SALNs showed that he failed to disclose his multi-million dollar and peso accounts, a fact that Corona himself admitted before the impeachment court last May 25.
The high court will also tackle the petitions seeking to nullify the Commission on Elections’ move to purchase 82,000 precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines for the 2013 mid-term elections.
The high court earlier issued a temporary restraining order on the Comelec’s decision.
Guerra said the regular en banc meeting will resume on June 19.
Absent in today’s special session were Associate Justices Lucas Bersamin and Diosdado Peralta. They were both in Baguio City for lectures.
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JBC starts looking for next CJ on Monday
Five most senior justices of SC automatically nominated
MANILA, Philippines – The Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) will kickstart on Monday the selection process for the next chief magistrate.
In a press conference, acting Public Information Office Chief Ma. Victoria Gleoresty Guerra said acting Chief Justice Antonio Carpio will preside over the meeting.
Senator Francis Escudero, a member of the JBC, earlier said it was Carpio who called for the meeting.
The JBC members usually meet on a Monday.
Other members of the JBC panel are:
retired SC Associate Justice Regino C. Hermosisima Jr., who represents the Retired Justices of the Supreme Court and the JBC Executive Committee Chairperson;
retired Court of Appeals (CA) Associate Justice Aurora Santiago Lagman who represents the private sector;
Jose V. Mejia who represents the academe;
lawyer Maria Milagros N. Fernan-Cayosa, who represents the Integrated Bar of the Philippines;
Rep. Niel Tupas Jr., chair of the House Committee on Justice; and,
Justice Secretary Leila de Lima.
Guerra said the five most senior associate justices of the high tribunal will automatically be considered for the post. This includes Carpio.
They may also decide to decline, she said.
The others are: Associate Justices Presbitero Velasco Jr., Teresita Leonardo de-Castro, Arturo Brion, and Diosdado Peralta.
“The five most senior associate justices are automatically considered for the Chief Justice post although they can decline as what Carpio and former Associate Justice Conchita Carpio-Morales did when then Chief Justice Reynato Puno retired,” Guerra said.
Carpio and his cousin, now the Ombudsman, then dropped their bids based on their belief that then President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo could not anymore appoint a replacement for Puno due to the constitutional prohibition on midnight appointments.
Arroyo would later appoint Chief Justice Renato Corona, who was ousted on Tuesday via an impeachment trial.
Under the Constitution, to become a member of the SC, he or she should be a natural-born citizen of the Philippines; at least 40 years of age; a judge in a court of record for at least 15 years or engaged in the practice of law in the Philippines for the same period; and a person of proven competence, integrity, probity and independence.