Voting on nominees to Supreme Court deferred

by ARIES RUFO, abs-cbnNEWS.com/Newsbreak

Posted at Dec 15 2008 02:44 PM | Updated as of Dec 16 2008 04:37 AM

The Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) deferred on Monday its scheduled voting on the nominees to the High Court, deciding to resolve first the motion for reconsideration filed by Solicitor-General Agnes Devanadera.

“It was postponed for next week. We first have to act on the motion filed by Devanadera,” JBC member and House representative to the JBC Quezon City Rep. Matias Defensor told abscbnnews.com/Newsbreak.

He added the decision to defer voting was unanimous.

The JBC was supposed to vote on the short list to be submitted to Malacañang for the seat to be vacated by retiring Justice Ruben Reyes Jr.. Devanadera, said to be Malacanang’s bet, has been disqualified due to a pending case before the Ombudsman. The JBC rules states that a candidate with a pending criminal and administrative case cannot be considered for any judicial position.

But Devanadera last week contested the decision, arguing that the JBC did not apply equal treatment to all the applicants. She noted that three of the Court of Appeals justices who are also applying for the post, also face complaints but were not disqualified.

Supreme Court spokesperson Midas Marquez said the three CA magistrates were not barred because their cases are still in the preliminary investigation stage.

Devanadera, however, countered that her plunder case before the Ombudman filed by former Ilocos Sur Governor Luis Chavit Singson over the operation and management of Poro Point is also in the preliminary investigation stage.

Another applicant, former Bureau of Internal Revenue commissioner Jose Buñag, was also disqualified because of a pending case.

Defensor, in a phone interview, said the JBC deferred voting to give due course to Devanadera’s motion. He hinted that Devanadera’s argument might have some merit.

Defensor said the JBC will first resolve whether the rule was appropriately applied to Devanadera and Buñag. “We want more facts.”

Defensor said that in the case of judges and CA justices, the Office of the Court Administrator certifies whether the case is still in the preliminary stage or already in the formal stage. A complaint in the preliminary stage is not yet considered a formal case, thus not a ground for disqualification.

But in the case of Devanadera, it is not certain whether the complaint against her can be a ground for disqualification.

Devanadera has written the JBC informing it that her case is still in the preliminary stage and that Singson himself has filed a motion to exclude her from the plunder case.

 The selection for Reyes’s post is Devanadera’s second bid for the SC. She was disqualified the first time because of the plunder case.