MANILA — The Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) has extended the deadline for application for the country's top magistrate post, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra, a member of the council, said Monday.
The deadline, originally set today, February 15, is moved to February 26.
“Now, it’s clear: the JBC has extended the application period for SC (Supreme Court) CJ (chief justice) until 26 Feb(ruary) 2021. Online and physical submission of the documentary requirements should also be completed on or before the aforementioned new deadline,” Guevarra told reporters.
Guevarra earlier said the deadline for submission of documentary requirements was extended “upon the request of senior SC justices.”
“I have been informed that as of today, only two senior associate justices of the SC have submitted the documentary requirements,” he explained.
The 5 most senior justices of the Supreme Court — Senior Associate Justice Estela Perlas-Bernabe and Associate Justices Marvic Leonen, Alfredo Benjamin Caguioa, Alexander Gesmundo and Ramon Paul Hernando — are automatically nominated for the top magistrate post.
A source told ABS-CBN News all 5 senior justices accepted the nomination but asked for extension to submit all the required documents until February 26.
The source also said the SC magistrates passed a resolution “expressing the sentiment of the Court en banc” to forego public interviews and submission of documents that are already with the Court such as transcript of records, police clearance, and even statements of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN).
Guevarra confirmed that there is such a resolution.
“The JBC en banc will most likely include that matter in the agenda for their meeting on Thursday,” he said, clarifying that he does not have personal knowledge that all 5 most senior magistrates have accepted their nominations.
Among the 5 magistrates, Bernabe is the most senior having been appointed by former President Benigno Aquino III in September 2011. She is set to retire in May 2022.
Leonen and Caguioa were appointed, also by Aquino, to the Court in 2012 and 2016, respectively, and are not expected to retire until 2032 and 2029.
Leonen, in a recent interview, said he is not yet “cut out” to be chief justice of the Supreme Court.
Gesmundo and Hernando were appointed by President Rodrigo Duterte in 2017 and 2018, respectively. Gesmundo’s term is until 2026 while Hernando, the youngest of the 5, won’t retire until 2036.
It is not immediately clear if there are other applicants from the Supreme Court or outside.
If an SC insider is appointed, there will be a vacancy for an associate justice post, which could be another opportunity for the President to appoint another magistrate in the high court, making 12 of the 15 justices his appointees.
The JBC, in May last year, approved new guidelines establishing a minimum requirement of years left in service for those seeking to join the high court for the first time, effectively creating an age cap for applicants.
SC outsiders who have served as associate or presiding justice in an appellate court, or as court administrator, chair of a constitutional commission, solicitor general or department secretary only need 2.5 years left in service to qualify to apply for the post, or an age cap of 67.5 years. SC mandatory retirement age is set at 70.
Other applicants however who have not served in those posts or served as private practitioners need to have at least 5 years left in service or no more than 65 years old.
Guevarra himself is highly touted to join the Supreme Court. He will turn 67 in May, well within the age cap of 67.5 years, as a sitting department secretary.
But Guevarra on Monday quashed speculations he will apply for the highest position in the Judiciary.
“[W]ith all sincerity, I believe that there are many judges and justices who are more qualified and deserving than I am to be considered for the illustrious position of chief justice. Many of them have spent their entire professional career in the Judiciary, and it is only fair that they be given the privilege of being considered preferentially. I am happy serving the people as the Secretary of Justice, and I aspire for nothing more,” he said.
Guevarra previously did not discount the possibility of joining the high court.
Chief Justice Diosdado Peralta’s early retirement is set to take effect on March 27.