MANILA, Philippines – University of Sto. Tomas (UST) Law Dean Nilo Divina on Wednesday applauded the way Dean Andres Bautista and Associate Justice Roberto Abad responded to questions posed by the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) panel in their search for the next Chief Justice.
Divina said Bautista, who was the first interviewee out of 20 nominees, provided fresh ideas and responded well to the panel’s queries.
“All of them did well but what struck me in particular were the answers of Dean Bautista and Justice Abad. For Dean Andy [Bautista], I think it was because he was the first one to be asked. The questions were tough and this brought out the best in him,” Divina told ANC’s “Prime Time.”
Divina noted that what particularly struck him was Bautista’s answers on the 7-year term limit for the Chief Justice position and reforms for the Supreme Court (SC).
Bautista on Tuesday said he is in favor of imposing term limits on SC magistrates similar to term limits of elected officials.
The 48-year-old Bautista, who could stay as Chief Justice for 22 years if appointed, also said he is willing to sign a “waiver” that he will only stay in the SC for 7 years.
Declogging the courts
Abad, on the other hand, impressed Divina with his plan to de-clog court dockets.
Abad, who was interviewed by the JBC on Wednesday, proposed a combined adversarial and inquisitorial system where cases are heard in a single day, with all parties, witnesses and evidence presented at once and the judge making a decision on the same day.
Divina said Bautista and Abad showed that they have a clear vision and program for the high court, which the next Chief Justice needs to possess.
“We need a chief justice that has a vision for the Supreme Court. It cannot be business as usual,” said Divina.
The law dean added that the JBC should focus on these aspects because a nominee’s moral integrity and independence cannot be measured “by simply asking questions.”
“These are based on collective perception of people. You can presume competence because they will not be in the shortlist unless they are competent. I think what we need to find out is philosophy, vision and program for the Supreme Court,” he said.
Divina said that while he was “impressed and amazed” at how the JBC was able to come up with specific questions particular to the nominee, he also suggested a more uniform line of questioning.
“The questions should have been more on perspective rather than strength. The question on judicial philosophy and judicial independence, vision and program of the Supreme Court should have been asked to all the nominees,” he said.
He also said the live interviews of the nominees helped in promoting transparency but noted that the JBC should also share with the public how they arrived at their decision once they have selected the 3 names to be submitted to the President.
“Some think that this process demystifies or devalues the position, but the sentiment of the majority is that they appreciate the transparency,” he said.