De Lima, Henares bad for reforming SC, says TAN
MANILA, Philippines – The independence of the Supreme Court (SC) may again be questioned should President Benigno Aquino III decide to appoint a member of his Cabinet as next chief magistrate, according to Vincent Lazatin, executive director of Transparency and Accountability Network (TAN).
Lazatin told radio dzMM on Saturday that the problems that arose from the appointment of former Chief Justice Renato Corona may be repeated if Aquino decides to appoint an ally.
“Kapag galing sa gabinete ni President Aquino, kwestyonable na ‘yung pagiging independent nila kasi kung titignan natin ‘yung kay Chief Justice Renato Corona, tali siya sa appointing power (Gloria Arroyo),” he said.
Lazatin frowned upon reports that Justice Secretary Leila de Lima and Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) Commissioner Kim Henares, both known allies of the President, are being considered as the next chief justice of the High Court.
“Kung si Secretary de Lima o Commissioner Henares ang i-appoint, parang hindi magandang tignan. Alam naman natin na malapit sila kay Pangulong Aquino,” he said.
President Aquino on Friday said either de Lima or Henares have what it takes to be the next chief justice, adding that the two officials are the most feared in his administration.
Must be independent
Lazatin noted that he is not questioning the capabilities of both de Lima and Henares, but expressed worry that judicial independence may be at risk if either of the two is appointed.
“Alam naman natin ‘yung qualifications nila, pero in terms of independence, alam na natin ‘yun e, lumitaw ‘yung problema kay Chief Justice Corona. Nakita rin natin ‘yung lack of independence ni Ombudsman [Merceditas] Gutierrez. So napakahalaga ng independence,” he said.
Both Corona and Gutierrez were appointed by former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, but were both impeached by the House of Representatives under the Aquino government.
Gutierrez resigned before the start of her impeachment trial. Corona was found guilty by the impeachment court last Tuesday.
Lazatin said he sees a similar scenario occurring if Aquino would appoint someone close to him.
He noted the four qualifications vital in choosing the next chief justice: independence, competence, probity and integrity,
“It’s hard to find those four in one person,” he said.
Transparency in JBC's process
The selection process of the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) was also questioned by Lazatin, saying the council should be more transparent.
“Nakalusot si Corona, nakalusot is Gutierrez, so may problema talaga sa JBC. [It's] Not very transparent, hindi natin nakikita ‘yung voting records, pati ‘yung short list [of candidates]. Walang official release from the JBC,” he said.
Integrated Bar of the Philippines chief Atty. Roan Libarios, meanwhile, also urged the JBC to be more transparent in its selection process.
“Baka panahon na rin ng JBC para maging transparent sa proseso. Matagal ng hinihingi ng mga ibang advocates na kung maaari lang ay gawing publiko ang records ng JBC para malaman din kung ano ang resulta at kung paano bumoto ang isang JBC member,” he told dzMM on Saturday.
The JBC is scheduled to begin the formal selection process on Monday.
Antonio Carpio, the most senior associate justice, is also the acting Chief Justice.