By Rodolfo Andal
PANGLAO, Bohol — President Rodrigo Roa Duterte on Thursday said his choice for the next Chief Justice of the Supreme Court will depend on the recommendation of the country’s legal bodies.
“I have to consult not only the Justices themselves but also the law profession — so it’s by IBP and Philippine Constitutional Association and others. And I will consult here, Atty. Dela Cerna. ‘Yung sabi ko professor ko sa Criminal Law,” Duterte, noting that he has a 90-day period for filing the vacancy in the office of the Chief Justice, told reporters.
Former Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno was ousted through a quo warranto petition filed by Solicitor General Jose Calida.
Saying that its decision is final, the Supreme Court en banc recently junked the plea of Sereno to reverse the high court’s ruling nullifying her appointment as the country’s top magistrate.
Duterte, who is in Panglao to attend the 25th Annual National Convention of the Vice Mayors’ League of the Philippines, also reacted to the comments made by Communist Party of the Philippines’ founder Jose Maria Sison, who said they are no longer interested in negotiating peace with the Duterte administration.
“Trabahante ho ako ng gobyerno and my main task is just to seek, to find the peace for my country,” Duterte said.
“If they are not willing to talk to me, that’s fine. Wala akong problema so we continue with the war. Anyway, we have been there for 50 years. Ano ba naman ang dagdagan natin ng 30 years? So sige. So basta alam ng Pilipino na ganun ang nangyayari,” he said.
Duterte said that if Sison opts to continue talking peace, he should come to the Philippines to start the negotiation.
President Duterte also touched the issue of illegal numbers game jueteng, noting he cannot act on it at this time because it would affect people’s livelihood.
“Jueteng is unlawful. It is not legal. It cannot be allowed. Ngayon, malakas ang jueteng sa Luzon, dito sa Visayas but sa Mindanao, wala,” he said.
According to the President, jueteng, a centuries old numbers game, has a very extensive and intensive networking and dismantling it at this time will only drive people to use its network for illegal drug trade.
“Ngayon, kung parahin ko ‘yan, I must be prepared to give another livelihood scheme sa mga tao. Kasi kapag wala ‘yan, wala kang ipapalit… papalit niyan droga. Mas deadly. Mas marami na at ang networking niyan mas malawak. Intensive and extensive,” he explained.
“Ang magpapalit diyan yung mga drug lord. Sasakyan na lang nila ‘yung mechanism mismo,” he said, adding that he must be prepared to give people a substitute.
In his speech before the country’s vice mayors, President Duterte warned Immigration officials and personnel not to harass tourists coming to the Philippines.
“You are not allowed to accost anybody, any tourist for that matter. Iyong mga Immigration, stop it,” the President said.
He said he felt ashamed when South Korean officials raised the issue about a Korean national who died in police custody.
Recognizing the pivotal role of vice mayors in the administration’s task to rid the society of many ills, he said that vice mayors are among the “front liners in bringing the government closer to the people.”
“May you continue to be a partner in helping us attain peace, progress, and prosperity for our communities and our country.”