Press Release
January 19, 2009


Independent Senator Francis "Kiko" Pangilinan today urged Supreme Court Chief Justice Reynato Puno to keep his eye on maintaining an independent judiciary amidst mounting calls from various sectors for Puno to run for President in 2010.

"We admire Chief Justice Puno's resolve to lead the moral forces, as this country needs a leader who can be a model of integrity for our countrymen," Kiko said. "But we believe that he will do this most effectively by upholding the independence and the integrity of the Supreme Court," Kiko said.

Last week, Senator Panfilo Lacson called on Puno to run for president in 2010, saying that he will abandon his political ambitions and support Puno should the latter decide to run as the country's Chief Executive.

Kiko, however, believes that Puno needs to be vigilant in keeping the judiciary free of political machinations by both the administration and the opposition.

"It is imperative now, more than ever, for the Supreme Court to be the vanguard of the Constitution and our democratic institutions," Kiko stated. "The current administration has gone out of its way to undermine the independence of the judiciary, and it's important that the people have an institution to run to when the executive and legislative branches are constantly violating the rule of law."

Kiko was referring to the promulgation of Executive Order 464, which gave cabinet members the right to "executive privilege," a tool that executive officials have used repeatedly to dodge allegations of bribery and corruption. He also cited moves in the Lower House to railroad amendments in the Constitution, possibly paving the way for term extensions and a no-election scenario in 2010.

"The judiciary is the last bastion of our democracy," Kiko reiterated. "We need to keep it independent and ethical."

Kiko also expressed fears that a Puno candidacy would mean the latter stepping down as Supreme Court Chief Justice, paving the way for President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to appoint a new Chief Justice who could be beholden to Malacañang.

A co-founder of the advocacy group Bantay Korte Suprema, Kiko has been calling for public vigilance on the character and the credentials of the shortlisted candidates for the Supreme Court. Of the 13 sitting justices, seven will be retiring this year, giving Malacañang a free hand in appointing allies of the president.

"The best way for us to ensure the integrity and the independence of our institutions is for the right people to be placed in the right positions, and for them to do their jobs well and do what's right, in the midst of politicking from all sides," Kiko emphasized.

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