JBC wants SC to decide on composition, voting rights

by Ina Reformina, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jul 09 2012 09:38 PM | Updated as of Jul 10 2012 09:34 PM

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) - The Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) will defer to the Supreme Court (SC) on the issue of its composition and voting rights.

In its 13-page comment on the petition filed by former Solicitor General Frank Chavez, the JBC through its Executive Committee chairperson retired Supreme Court Associate Justice Regino Hermosisima, stressed that being under the direct supervision of the Supreme Court, it should defer to the discretion and decision of the high court on the matter.

"As a constitutional body under the supervision of the Supreme Court, the JBC may only defer to the exercise of judicial power by the honorable Court on a constitutional issue that basically deals with the organization and composition of the JBC," the JBC said.

In his petition, Chavez assailed as unconstitutional the 8-member composition of the council and urged the high court to restrain it from further performing its functions.

He pointed out that Sec. 8, par. (1), Art. VIII of the 1987 Constitution states that the JBC "shall have only 7 members and that Congress shall have only one representative in the said constitutional body."

The JBC presently has the following as members: Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio (in place of the Chief Justice), Justice Sec. Leila De Lima, Senate Justice Committee chairman Francis Escudero, House Justice Committee chairman Niel Tupas, Jr., Hermosisima (representing retired justices of the Supreme Court), retired Court of Appeals Justice Aurora Lagman (private sector), Atty. Milagros Fernan-Cayosa (Integrated Bar of the Philippines), and Atty. Jose Mejia (academe).

In its comment, the JBC said the Supreme Court must now address the issue to preserve the integrity of the selection process for posts in the judiciary and the Office of the Ombudsman and deputy ombudsmen, and "abate whatever public confidence in the selection process it conducts."

Constitutionalist Fr. Joaquin Bernas earlier said that the previous practice of the council was to accord each of the two congressional representatives to the council 1/2 vote each. The practice, however, in recent years is for each congressional representative to cast his or her vote.

The JBC, Escudero, and Tupas, who are respondents in the Chavez petition, had until Monday to file their comments.

OSG asks SC for more time

Meantime, the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) is asking the Supreme Court SC to grant the Senate and the House of Representatives until Friday, July 13, to submit their Comment on the petition of Chavez on the composition and voting rights of the JBC.

The OSG pointed out that "there is a need to secure a number of documents" from both Houses, and from the JBC.

The high court gave the JBC and both congressional representatives from the upper and lower Chambers until today (July 9) to file their comments on the Chavez petition.