'Congress shouldn't pull out of JBC vote'

by Jon Carlos Rodriguez, ABS-CBNnews.com

Posted at Jul 27 2012 10:00 PM | Updated as of Jul 28 2012 06:00 AM

MANILA, Philippines – Congress should participate in the deliberation of the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) in finalizing a shortlist of candidates for Chief Justice, according to Atty. Ernest Maceda, dean of the Pamantasan ng Lungsod ng Maynila College of Law.

Maceda said that although Congress' decision to pull out of the JBC deliberation process will not affect the council, it lessens the public’s stake on the process.

He said the reason why representatives of the Senate and the House of Representatives are part of the voting process is “to serve as a check.”

“Sayang nga lang because if they pull out, mababawasan ang boses ng taongbayan mismo. They shouldn’t have pulled out of the process,” Maceda told ANC’s “Prime Time” on Friday.

“That would be a problem to their constituency and to their electorate but as far as the legitimacy of the process is concerned, for as long as they were given the opportunity to participate, and they decide not to, then that’s their call. That’s their ‘bad,’” he said.

The JBC’s deliberation and voting was initially scheduled for July 30 but it was later moved to August 2.

Supreme Court (SC) spokesperson Gleo Guerra said the postponement is not related to the decision of Congress not to participate in the voting.

Pending SC petition

Senator Francis “Chiz” Escudero, Senate justice committee chairman, said the two chambers have decided to wait for the SC’s answer to their petition questioning the SC's ruling that only one congressional representative can sit in the JBC.

The JBC finished interviewing the 20 nominees for the next Chief Justice on Friday.

The list of candidates was initially at 22, but it was cut down after former Immigration commissioner Rufus Rodriguez and lawyer Vicente Velasquez were disqualified due to their failure to comply with requirements.

De Lima should be disqualified

Maceda said he believes Justice Secretary Leila de Lima should also be disqualified because of a pending disbarment case filed against her.

Maceda said then Solicitor General Agnes Devanadera was also disqualified in her bid for a Supreme Court position in 2008 because of a pending disbarment case.

He disagreed with de Lima’s defense that there is no determination of preliminary merit on the case filed against her.

“The moment the SC refers to the IBP [Integrated Bar of the Philippines] for guidance, that means the SC has made a preliminary determination there is basis for an investigation. Otherwise, outright they will dismiss. It is right now a pending administrative charge against her, which under the rules of the JBC, automatically disqualified siya,” he said.

Under Rule 4, Section 5 of the JBC rules, those with pending criminal or regular administrative cases are disqualified from "appointment to any judicial post or as Ombudsman or Deputy Ombudsman."

'High-quality pool'

Maceda said the current pool of nominees for Chief Justice is of “high-quality,” adding that any of the incumbent justices are qualified for the position.

He cited Justice Arturo Brion’s credentials, Justice Antonio Carpio’s experience and Justice Lourdes Sereno’s reform programs as strong points in their bid to be the next chief magistrate.

The law dean also lauded the new process of allowing media to broadcast the interviews, as it gave the public a better understanding of how the process works.

“The justices were compared to gods and Mt. Olympus and now we are reminded that they are just like you and I. It brings the enter branch closer to the people, it doesn’t necessarily mean that we now break bread with them but at least we see that they are just like you and me. It gives us a better understanding. It’s much better than the former system,” he said.