'Live coverage of CJ interviews a step forward'

by Jojo Malig, ABS-CBNnews.com

Posted at Jun 18 2012 11:02 PM | Updated as of Jun 19 2012 04:10 PM

'CJ nominees should answer tough questions'

MANILA, Philippines - Chief Justice nominees and applicants and should be made to answer tough and sensitive questions on their personal interests by either members of Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) or the media during the live coverage their public interviews.

Gigi de Vera, a member of the Justice and Courts Reporters Association, told ANC Monday that some JBC panelists may hesitate to thoroughly grill certain nominees and applicants to the high magistrate position.

"There are some issues," she said. "Some nominees are 'touchy' on some issues. Some JBC panelists wouldn't dare ask (sensitive) questions to some nominees."

While the JBC has yet to roll out the rules for the live coverage of its interviews, de Vera hopes that journalists will be allowed to also ask questions to nominees.

She said earlier selection proceedings were strict, with recorders and cameras banned from the interview premises.

She added that they had to rely on their hearing and how fast they can write the answers being given by the nominees to the JBC panel.

"This is really a welcome development for us. Now we would be able to quote them directly. It would be beneficial to the public," she said.

"They would be able to see how a nominee answers questions. The public would be able to know the thought processes of the nominee. That is very important."

De Vera said a nominee who gets selected by the President would be asked to decide on important court cases. "We would know if this person has an interest in certain cases... that would be important later on."

A step forward: NUJP

Nestor Burgos, chairman of the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines, echoed De Vera's assessment on the benefits of the live coverage.

"It's a welcome development not only for journalists but for the public," he said. "This is a step forward."

He told ANC that although the live coverage will not ensure 100% that the best person will get selected for the chief justice position, "it's a step forward in ensuring transparency and accountability in government process in the selection of officials who will hold important positions in government."

He said this is especially important for a chief justice who is appointed by the President and who can only be removed via impeachment.

"I think who would benefit most are the people and not just the media," he added.

Better educated public

"The decision is still up to the President based on a shortlist to be submitted by the JBC. The public will not have the last say. But we hope that with this process, the public will be more educated... it would become a basis later on if they agree or not in the selection of the chief justice," Burgos said.

"We hope that this would influence the choice, particularly if the public would react strongly or not," he said.

Burgos said the media should also provide the in-depth background of the nominees and applicants to inform the public.

"Even before this development, that is already our responsibility. We should not just be limited to the live broadcast but at the same time do our responsibiliy to provide backgrounds as we do during elections on candidates," he said.