The Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) should be housed separately from the Supreme Court (SC) to prevent the perception of influence by the high court, a former senator and human rights lawyer yesterday said.
In a letter to the JBC dated June 5, civil rights advocate Rene Saguisag, who has declined his nomination to the head magistrate position, suggested a separate office for the collegial body to brush off its image as a rubber stamp agency.
Former Solicitor General Francisco Chavez, for his part, questioned the composition of the JBC, stressing there should only be “a representative of the Congress” to act as one of the JBC’s ex-officio members.
Chavez is one of the nominees to the chief justice position.
In his three-page letter-query to the JBC, Chavez cited that Section 8 (1) Article of the Constitution clearly provides that: “A Judicial and Bar Council is hereby created under the supervision of the Supreme Court composed of the Chief Justice as ex-officio Chairman, the Secretary of Justice, and a representative of the Congress as ex-officio Members, a representative of the Integrated Bar, a professor of law, a retired Member of the Supreme Court, and a representative of the private sector.”
The question is particularly important in the current composition of the collegial body since two members, acting Chief Justice Antonio Carpio and Justice Secretary Leila de Lima — have recused themselves from the proceedings.
Both Carpio and De Lima are among the more than 40 individuals who are nominees to the post.
“It is clear to me that, as mandated by the Constitution, there should only be seven members of the JBC. Three of these members sit in the Council in an ex-officio capacity. The four others are regular members who are appointed by the President.”
Currently, the JBC is composed of eight members, namely: Carpio as ex-officio chairman, and De Lima, Sen. Francis Escudero, Iloilo Rep. Niel Tupas Jr as ex-officio members; lawyer Ma. Milagros Fernan-Cayosa, representing the Integrated Bar of the Philippines; lawyer Jose Mejia representing the academe; retired SC Associate Justice Regino Hermosisima Jr; and Aurora Santiago-Lagman representing the private sector, as regular members.
Chavez insisted that Congress, which is composed of two houses — the Senate and the House of Representatives — should only have one representative for both and not one for each.
He argued there would be a “possibility of an impasse” in case of a tie because there would be no one to break it.
“In such a case, who will be the tie-breaker?” Chavez asked.
The Senate and the House of Representatives used to have only one representative to the JBC since 1987, when the Constitution was ratified. Both houses alternately represented Congress in the council and shared one vote, until 2001.
The former Solicitor General said that before he could act on his nomination, “it is my humble submission that the foregoing queries imperatively present themselves for resolution/clarification.”
The number of nominees for the position of chief magistrate reached 57 as of Thursday.
Of this number, 13 have accepted their respective nomination, namely: SC Associate Justices Arturo Brion and Roberto Abad, Atty. Soledad Cagampang-De Castro, Prof. Jose Manuel Diokno II, Atty. Maria Carolina Katrina Legarda, Atty. Rafael Morales, University of the Philippines College of Law Dean Raul Pangalangan, Atty. Ferdinand Jose David Emmanuel Edralin Marcos Pijao Jr., Commission on Elections Commissioner Rene Sarmiento, Atty. Manuel DJ Siayngco Jr., Atty. Vicente Velasquez, Ateneo De Manila University College of Law Dean Cesar Villanueva and former Executive Secretary and now San Juan City Rep. Ronaldo Zamora.
Also among those who applied for the post of Chief Justice but were disqualified were Jocelyn Esquivel, a nurse by professional training, and former Malabon City Regional Trial (RTC) Branch 73 Judge Florentino Floro.
According to SC acting spokesman Maria Victoria Gleoresty Guerra, the JBC has decided not to disclose anymore to the public the names of those nominees who have not yet accepted their respective nomination.
The period of application and nomination for the Chief Justice position will be until July 2.