MANILA, Philippines - In the aftermath of Chief Justice Renato Corona's ouster, the next chief justice may face stricter screening, including a psychological test and a submission of a bank waiver, Senator Francis Escudero said.
In an interview with Mornings@ANC, Escudero said he will suggest to the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) to include these on its list of requirements for the next chief justice, aside from the customary public interviews and other requisites.
Escudero is the Senate's representative to the JBC, the body which comes up with a list of names from which the President will choose a member of the SC.
He said his proposal will be taken up in the JBC regular meeting on Monday.
Escudero said it was acting Chief Justice Antonio Carpio who called for the JBC meeting, which will officially kick-start the selection process for Corona's replacement.
Senator-judges voted 20-3 last Tuesday convicting Corona on article 2 of the impeachment complaint, which accused him of betrayal of public trust and culpable violation of the Constitution for not disclosing his Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net worth as required under the 1987 charter.
Escudero said that if Carpio will also vie for the top post in the judiciary, he should not have taken over as acting chief justice position due to delicadeza.
He said he agrees with former Senator Rene Saguisag that if President Aquino chooses Carpio, it will only highlight the political issues in the SC.
“Baka mula sa isang away, papunta na naman sa isang away," he said. “I’m not prejudging him. I’m purely talking about procedures and what’s good for the country."
He said that if Carpio decides to apply for the position, he will already have to inhibit from the JBC.
Carpio and Corona were both allies in the early years of the Gloria Arroyo administration, but they ended up taking opposing positions on many SC decisions after Carpio had a falling out with Mrs. Arroyo.
Mrs. Arroyo picked Corona as chief justice in May 2010, with less than 2 months left in her presidential term.
Carpio withdrew his name from the list of nominees at that time since he believed that it should be the next president who should choose the chief justice.
Law abhors vacuum
Escudero said there is no question as to who will sit as chairman of the JBC.
“If he [Carpio] is going to be a nominee as it has happened in the past, he will have to inhibit. Someone has to take his place, perhaps the next senior justice,” he added.
He debunked the theory of Rep. Niel Tupas Jr., who sits in the JBC as a representative of the lower House, that there is no chairman there at the moment.
“The law abhors a vacuum. The mere fact that it does not state who will take over as JBC chairman, does not mean we could be paralyzed,” he said.
The JBC will likely sign a notification on Monday calling for applications and nominations for the chief justice post.
The notification will be published in national newspapers after which applicants and nominations will be accepted.
Escudero said the whole process will probably take them one-and-a-half months.
He said the President will get a short list way before his deadline. Under the law, Aquino has 90 days to fill up the post.
If the chief justice will come from the present membership of the high court, another process will opened for the post that will be vacated by that associate justice.