The Supreme Court (SC) maintained that Congress shall have only one representative in the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC), despite the two-chamber set-up of the Philippine legislature.
Voting 9-5, with Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno inhibiting, the SC junked the plea of House Justice Committee chairman and Oriental Mindoro Representative Reynaldo Umali, and upheld its December 2012 declaring the council's composition of 8 then was unconstitutional.
Prior to the 2012 decision in favor of the late Solicitor General Frank Chavez, the House of Representatives and Senate sent one representative each to the JBC, the body mandated by the 1987 Constitution to screen applicants to the judiciary, as well as applicants to the Ombudsman and Deputy Ombudsmen posts.
Those who voted in the majority in Tuesday’s decision were Associate Justices Antonio Carpio, Presbitero Velasco, Jr. (ponente), Diosdado Peralta, Lucas Bersamin, Jose Mendoza, Estela Perlas-Bernabe, Alfredo Benjamin Caguioa, and Noel Tijam.
Those who voted in the minority were Associate Justices Teresita Leonardo-De Castro, Mariano Del Castillo, Marvic Leonen, Samuel Martires, and Andres Reyes, Jr. Carpio, Velasco, De Castro, and Sereno took no part in the deliberations and voting of the 2012 Chavez case because they were then vying for the Chief Justice post and being screened by the JBC.
In his petition, Umali argued each chamber of Congress must have its own representation so as not to disenfranchise the other. He lamented that during his term as JBC ex-officio member, he would only be voting for 2 of the 8 vacancies in the SC; the rest of the 6 will be voted by Senate Justice Committee chairman Richard Gordon because of the arranged "term-sharing" between the two chambers.
However, in Chavez, the high court ruled that the 1987 Constitution speaks of a lone representative from Congress, and it is not the role of the SC to amend the Constitution nor resort to judicial legislation.