MANILA, Philippines - A last minute change in the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) rule on disqualification of candidates could help Justice Secretary Leila de Lima in her bid to become the next Chief Justice.
This is after Iloilo Rep, Niel Tupas Jr. bared he is pushing for an amendment to the rule on disqualifying candidates who are facing administrative cases.
"May pending akong amendment to the rules para maging equitable naman at maging fair sa mga applicants but it would depend on the decision ng members ng council kung anuman ang mangyayari on Wednesday," he said.
Should the JBC support Tupas' proposal, de Lima still has a shot at landing in the shortlist.
Tupas said de Lima is "definitely disqualified" based on the existing rules.
De Lima is believed to be the top pick of President Aquino for the top judicial post. President Aquino has to appoint the new Chief Justice on August 27. Incidentally, De Lima turns 53 on the same day.
The Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) on Monday unanimously junked de Lima's motion for reconsideration on the IBP Board of Governors' decision to proceed with a full-blown investigation into her disbarment cases.
The pendency of a criminal or regular administrative case automatically disqualifies a candidate from any judicial post according to Section 5, Rule 4 of the Rules of the JBC.
The JBC has postponed its voting on the shortlist of Chief Justice candidates and instead reset the deliberations and voting on Wednesday.
The JBC granted the request of its two representatives from Congress, Sen. Chiz Escudero and Tupas, for more time to study the qualifications of all 20 CJ hopefuls.
Escudero was not present during the public interviews of the candidates of July 24-27 because of a Supreme Court ruling limiting the legislature's representation in the JBC from two to one.
Tupas, on the other hand, was not present during the last day of the interviews after both the Senate and House of Representatives decided to pull out of the process.
Speaking to reporters, Escudero said the IBP decision to investigate the disbarment cases against de Lima was not discussed.
An ABS-CBN source, however, bared De Lima's predicament was brought up.
De Lima has requested the JBC not to disqualify her from the race.
Escudero said the matter will be put to a vote also on Wednesday.
Palace denies pressuring IBP, JBC
A Malacañang spokesman, meanwhile, denied influencing the JBC or the IBP to help de Lima in her bid to become chief justice.
Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said he is not privy to the developments in the JBC and declined to comment on these mattes.
“Kung magbibigay kami ng opinyon one way or the other, baka sabihin nilang nag-i-impluwensya po kami. So we feel it is better for us not to comment on what action they will take,” he said.
Lacierda said he still has no details on the nature of the assistance being given by the Palace legal team to de Lima’s bid to become chief justice. With reports by Ina Reformina and Willard Cheng, ABS-CBN News