JBC needs better questions in CJ search

by Jon Carlos Rodriguez, ABS-CBNnews.com

Posted at Jul 24 2012 10:43 PM | Updated as of Jul 25 2012 07:48 PM

MANILA, Philippines – A former associate justice of the Supreme Court was not satisfied with the Judicial Bar and Council’s (JBC) line of questioning in its search for the next chief justice.

Speaking to ANC’s “Prime Time” on Tuesday, retired Supreme Court Associate Justice Vicente Mendoza said there were some vital questions that the JBC panel failed to ask the nominees.

Mendoza said the questions must zero in on a nominee's qualifications on being chief justice and administrative experience.

He also said some of the answers given by the nominees were “unsatisfactory” because they failed to give specifics.

“The questions should focus mainly on qualifications on being chief justice and the administrative experience. They should have been asked, well some of them were asked, about judicial philosophy but their answers were rather unsatisfactory from my point of view. They were simply generalities, they should come down to more specific ones,” he said.

Mendoza also said the questions should have been more uniform to determine how the nominees fared against each other.

“Maybe some questions that are really critical should be asked to all of them, find out how they differ to their approach to the problem,” said Mendoza.

'Test moral character'

Mendoza believes that while competence and integrity are qualities required of a chief justice, it is one’s independence that should stand out.

He said aside from asking questions, the panel should require the nominees to cite “specific instances” which would show their independence.

“I was very glad to hear questions wherein they stressed independence. The candidates should have competence, integrity, probity, but above all, they must be independent,” said Mendoza.

“[The nominees should] cite specific instances where he stood up to anyone who might put pressure on them because they had some moral ascendancy over him. That would test his moral character,” he added.

Mendoza noted that age is not important for a chief justice as long as the person is competent.

He also said nominees should not be allowed to make opening statements because it is merely “self-serving.”

“There is not much to gain from the opening statements. Whatever they say in the opening statements will come out in the answers, I’d rather get it from their answers,” he said.

Mendoza claimed that from the 6 nominees interviewed on Tuesday— Andres Bautista, Soledad de Castro, Leila de Lima, Jose Manuel Diokno, Francis Jardeleza and Katrina Legarda—no one stood out.

The second batch of nominees will be interviewed by the JBC panel on Wednesday.