I’m not retiring yet — Puno

PHILIPPINE NEWS SERVICE — THUS stressed Chief Justice Reynato Puno yesterday amid reports that he is bowing out of government service. Puno yesterday debunked reports that he will be availing of early retirement because of his “frustration” over the way majority of his colleagues in the Supreme Court voted on the controversial case involving executive privilege.

“I am denying the rumors and speculations that I will retire from the position of Chief Justice before May 17, 2010, when I will reach the constitutionally mandated retirement age of 70,” said Puno.

Puno led the justices who dissented in the majority opinion that affirmed the validity of former Economic Planning Secretary Romulo Neri’s invocation of the executive privilege to prevent Senate from compelling him to answer questions on details of his conversation with President Arroyo regarding the National Broadband Network deal with China’s ZTE Corporation.

“The Office of the Chief Justice is a trust given by the people, and I will fulfill the trust until the end of my term by continuing to discharge my duties with independence and fairness,” Puno said.

He noted that he was appointed Chief Justice in 2006, “without any political condition.”

“I remain steadfast in my belief that the Supreme Court will continue to be the defender of the rule of law and the protector of our people’s rights,” the Chief Justice stressed in a statement.

Since the High Court came down with its ruling on the Neri case, rumors have been circulating that Puno is contemplating early retirement because of his “frustration” over the tribunal’s ruling on Neri’s case.

Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez and retired Supreme Court Justice Vicente Mendoza doubted the reports.

“I don’t believe the Chief Justice will do that,” the DOJ secretary said. “I would be unhappy if it is true because that means he is pressuring his colleagues.”

“I don’t think he should retire, unless he has other reasons. If the reason is because of the SC decision on the Neri case where the court is badly split, I don’t think it’s a good reason,” Mendoza said.