Who should be appointed as the country’s highest judicial officer? Karen Davila examines the roles and responsibilities expected of a Chief Justice, as well as the characteristics that make a candidate fit for the position, in this episode of Krusada.
The search for the possible successor of former Chief Justice Renato Corona, who was convicted and removed from office in a conclusive impeachment trial last May, has started. Many names have surfaced but five senior justices have been automatically nominated.
The Judicial Bar Council (JBC) is now assessing and recommending potential appointees for Chief Justice to President Noynoy Aquino. Congressman Niel Tupas, prosecutor during Corona’s impeachment trial, is one of the members of JBC who will help the president decide.
Now the real question is who should be the next Chief Justice? How should the next CJ be chosen?
“The position should be the one looking for the right person and not vice versa,” said former RTC Judge Zenaida Elepano.
The country’s highest judicial post may not be as popular as the president’s and senators’ but unknown to many, Supreme Court decisions affect the everyday lives of Filipinos such as rulings on the contested Oil Deregulation Law and E-VAT.
Unlike in the United States, the country’s Chief Justice has more administrative duties to fulfill, including the Supreme Court’s finances.
As part of her report, Karen interviewed retired Chief Justice Renato Puno, who attests that the post’s duties have impact on the future of the country’s sectors.
“There is more to the position of a Chief Justice that makes him the first among equals. All of our courts depend on the leadership of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court,” he said.
Marites Vitug, author of the Supreme Court tell-all book titled “Shadow of Doubt”, declared that before Corona’s impeachment trial, the Supreme Court kept magistrates’ Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net worth (SALN) instead of disclosing it, showing lack of accountability.
“They should be accountable to the public. But they do not want to release how they spend their money, the cases they are deliberating,” she said.
Previously, the Supreme Court issued guidelines in disclosing SALNs of magistrates. This is said to be the first step to its transparency to the people.
Integral qualities of next CJ
The requirements for a Supreme Court Justice are undemanding: one must be a Filipino citizen who is 40 years old and above and of course, a Bar passer.
Even so, Elepano believes that a Chief Justice must not just be simply knowledgeable of the law.
“There is so much knowledge but so little wisdom,” she said.
The Constitution states that the Chief Justice should also possess four main qualities: integrity, probity, competence and independence. But Puno said that the next CJ would carry on a bigger responsibility as a consequence of the impeachment.
“One qualification in being a Chief Justice is that you should be able to unite the justices in the Supreme Court, unite the whole Judiciary, lift up each spirit and to have a good relationship with the Congress and the executive department,” he said.
While Elepano prefers an experienced insider to be seated, Vitug insisted that appointing someone outside of the Supreme Court should not be an issue.
“It does not matter if he is an outsider or an insider, as long as he has integrity, honesty. The only advantage of getting an insider is that he would no longer undergo the learning curve. If he wants to institute reforms, he would already know how to do it,” she said.
Air date: June 21, 2012