MANILA, Philippines - Iloilo Rep. and Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) member Niel Tupas, Jr. is adamant that Supreme Court (SC) Associate Justice Diosdado Peralta, the most senior magistrate of the high tribunal who is not a candidate for the Chief Justice post, cannot preside over the proceedings in the search for the next Chief Justice.
This is in spite of the Supreme Court (SC) decision that states that its most senior justice who is not an applicant for the top judicial post should preside over the proceedings.
Tupas told reporters that the JBC has reached a "consensus" not to allow Peralta to sit as presiding officer, and has chosen retired Supreme Court Justice Regino Hermosisima instead. Hermosisima represents the retired Supreme Court justices in the council.
In Famela Dulay vs. The Judicial and Bar Council and Exec. Sec. Paquito Ochoa promulgated by the Supreme Court on July 3, the high court held that it should not be deprived of representation in the JBC pursuant to its supervisory power over the council.
Addressing the 3rd legal issue raised in the petition on whether the JBC "can be constitutionally headed" by a retired associate justice of the Supreme Court, the decision held that the one who should preside, in the absence of the Chief Justice, should be the most senior justice not vying for the top judicial post.
"[C]omplete membership in the JBC is preferable and pursuant to its supervisory power over the JBC, this Court should not be deprived of representation. The most Senior Justice of this Court who is not an applicant for the position of Chief Justice should participate in the deliberations for the selection of nominees for the said vacant post and preside over the proceedings in the absence of the constitutionally named Ex-officio Chairman (Chief Justice)," the decision read.
Tupas, however, insists that the matter is "not the main legal issue" decided by the high court and "was only mentioned in passing."
"The Dulay case has nothing to do with an Associate Justice (Supreme Court) presiding the JBC... it is separate. It's just mentioned... meaning, it's not binding, it's not binding upon us and the consensus of the council is that the acting Chief Justice should be the one presiding, not the associate justices, and right now, since the acting Chief Justice (Senior Justice Antonio Carpio) has inhibited himself then the presiding officer, we designated Justice Hermosisima," he said.
Another JBC member, Atty. Jose Mejia, the representative from the academe, agrees with Tupas, but he pointed out that the council has yet to rule on the matter.
"What Congressman Tupas is mentioning is that that was only the result of our discussion but we have not formalized the resolution with respect to that issue," Mejia said.
Peralta is the 5th most senior magistrate of the Supreme Court. He declined his automatic nomination in deference to Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, Associate Justice Presbitero Velasco, Jr., Associate Justice Teresita Leonardo De Castro, and Associate Justice Arturo Brion, all of whom accepted their automatic nominations and more senior than him.