Chiz: JBC won’t submit list of CJ nominees yet
MANILA, Philippines (Update 1) – Sen. Francis “Chiz” Escudero said Wednesday the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) would have to wait for a final Supreme Court (SC) ruling on President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s right to appoint the next Chief Justice before submitting to her the list of nominees to the position.
“We will have to go through the [legal] process [and] await for the outcome of a final decision… Until such time that it has become final I don’t think the JBC can act one way or the other,” Escudero, a member of the JBC, said, citing that several groups have signified their intentions to appeal the SC’s ruling.
In a 9-1-3 vote, the justices ruled that Mrs. Arroyo can name the replacement of retiring Chief Justice Reynato Puno.
The SC magistrates ruled that President Arroyo can appoint any replacement for vacant positions in the judiciary until her term ends in June 30. The decision came after an hour of closed door deliberations by the Court en banc.
It also said that the JBC can now submit a list of nominees for the post to President Arroyo.
Escudero, meanwhile, said that it was unlikely for the SC ruling to be reversed because of the “near majority” voting. “It might be difficult to overturn such a decision unless something drastic happens,” he said.
Volatile political situation
For his part, Bantay Korte Suprema convenor Marvic Leonen said the volatility of the current political situation could factor in on any motion for reconsideration on the latest Supreme Court decision.
He noted that by the time Chief Justice Puno retires on May 17, a new president-elect could already be waiting to take over from President Arroyo.
“While it may be true that the numbers are against them, it’s going to be a very uncomfortable political situation. By May 10, there will be elections. In 2 to 3 days, there will be a trend perhaps of the winning presidential canddate. By May17, that’s when the chief justice steps down. When the current president chooses the new chief justice, there will be another president-elect in waiting. I guess that would be one situation that we will have to deal with,” he said.
He said the Supreme Court will also have to deal with comments from the legal academia and the legal profession who may question the Supreme Court ruling.
Leonen, who is the dean of the University of the Philippines College of Law, said he and many members of the UP faculty are disappointed with the decision especially since it violates a 90-day election ban on appointments starting March 10 until June 30.
He said the appointments ban was done on very reasonable ground so that the incumbent president “should not be able to affect the result of the election by making a last minute appointment for a very important position in the judiciary.”
Selection process to continue
Escudero, meanwhile, said the JBC will continue the process of selecting possible nominees for Puno’s replacement while waiting for a final decision from the SC.
The senator said the JBC will comply and follow the decision and order of the court. He said that even if some quarters feel the SC has made a mistake, the JBC has no choice but to follow, “unless you want anarchy.”
Escudero said that historically, the JBC submits the list of nominees to the president a week before the retirement of the outgoing chief justice. Puno retires on May 17.
The senator said that there is actually an initial list of 5 qualified nominees for the chief justice position, but said that the list might be trimmed down to just 3.
Five of the 15 sitting SC justices—Justices Arturo Brion, Antonio Carpio, Conchita Carpio-Morales, Renato Corona and Teresita de Castro—are vying for the position. Of the 5, Carpio and Carpio-Morales have said that they will only accept a nomination if the appointment will be made by the next President.
Escudero said the JBC would have to receive confirmation from Carpio-Morales and Carpio if they would still be applying for the position. He said that the JBC has invited the 2 justices for interview.
Leonen, meanwhile, said the selection process could be delayed because of pending complaints against some of the nominees. He said the JBC has the discretion “to look into all the complaints that have been made for and against each of the candidates that are there.”