MANILA, Philippines – A nominee for the position of Chief Justice on Wednesday said he will ask the Supreme Court (SC) to resolve questions about the current composition of the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC).
Former Solicitor General Frank Chavez said he is taking up the challenge issued by Sen. Francis Escudero to bring the matter to the SC after he questioned why there are 2 congressional representatives in the JBC instead of just 1, as required in the 1987 Constitution.
“I am accepting the challenge. I will bring it to the Supreme Court to resolve this once and for all,” he told radio dzMM.
He also challenged Escudero to defend the JBC's position before the SC if he feels strongly that it is the correct one.
Chavez said he will file before the High Court a petition for prohibition and injunction against “an illegally constituted or composed JBC” and stop them from proceeding in their duties and responsibilities until the issue is resolved. He will also ask the SC to issue a temporary restraining order.
Under section 8 (1) article VIII of the Constitution, the JBC should only have 7 members.
Three of these members sit in the Council in an ex-officio capacity. The Chief Justice is the ex-oficio chairman and the Secretary of Justice and a representative of Congress are ex-officio members.
The 4 others are regular members who are appointed by the President, with the confirmation of the Commission on Appointments. They include a representative of the Integrated Bar, a professor of law, a retired member of the Supreme Court and a representative of the private sector.
The JBC, however, said it will continue functioning with its present composition.
In the interview, Chavez said he has yet to accept his own nomination for Chief Justice because of his reservations about the present composition of the JBC.
He blamed former Chief Justice Hilario Davide for initiating the practice of having 2 congressional representatives instead of 1. Chavez said the Constitution is very clear that only a representative of Congress can join the JBC.
“The last time I checked the dictionary, the word ‘a’ means one, single, solo. Hindi twice, double or two. Napakasimpleng provision ng ating Constitution, binalewala. Dapat timesharing lang ang members of Congress,” he said.
Chavez said it is up to the Senate and the House of Representatives to decide who they will assign to represent Congress in the JBC.
“Problema na nila yan. Sila na ang magdedesisyon diyan. Why should their burden be passed to anyone else? They should make the decision. The House of Representatives and the Senate could probably come to terms,” he said.
He added: “You cannot perpetuate an error. You cannot forever follow a constitutional deviation. Dahil lang ba ginawa ng isang Chief Justice na 2 boto gagawi natin? Ang Constitution na nangingibabaw sa isang Chief Justice nagsasabing isa lang dapat. Kailangan talagang i-resolve.”