BAGUIO CITY - Despite vacancies for judges and justices posts running in the hundreds, Chief Justice Lucas Bersamin on Monday said he respects Malacañang’s decision not to fill up these posts yet.
“Marami na kaming narekomenda kay Presidente, ngunit respetuhin natin ang kanyang prerogative na pag-aralan ‘yung aming nirerekomenda at ito naman siguro ay dahil sa busy siya sa mga ibang bagay like kampanya o mga issues na tungkol sa bayan natin. Baka hindi nila naaasikaso masyado,” he told reporters in Baguio City following the flag-raising ceremony on Monday during the Court’s summer session.
“But we are expecting that every now and then they get to appoint judges for these vacancies. That is what they have been doing anyway,” he added.
Data from the Office of the Court Administrator shows that as of February 28, 2019, there were a total of 285 judgeship/justiceship posts that are waiting appointments from the Palace. Only 14 have been appointed in March, according to the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC).
Among these positions is the Supreme Court associate justice post left vacant when Chief Justice Bersamin himself assumed the top magistrate post in November last year.
Under the Constitution, the President has 90 days from the date of the vacancy to appoint a successor to a vacant position in the high court.
Twelve nominees are currently vying to take Bersamin’s associate justice post. (In February this year, the JBC shortlisted 13 including recently-appointed SC Associate Justice Amy Lazaro-Javier.)
“Hindi ko maaaring husgahan kung tapos na o ano dahil, alam mo, merong iisang vacancy na lang na natitira. At napakamaselan ‘yung posisyon ng Supreme Court justice. Hindi natin pwedeng sabihin na huli na o matagal na,” Bersamin said.
The Constitution also gives the President 90 days from the submission of the list of nominees to appoint judges for the lower courts but according to a JBC official, some of the lists of nominees have been submitted to Malacañang since last year.
The top magistrate however said the high court is finding ways to cope with the shortfall of justices and judges. But this, he said, is "not serious."
"I am not so sure about the number of vacancies that are yet to be filled but hindi naman ganyan kalala…Marami rin namang vacancies na hindi naman kaagad na urgent na fill-up-an kagaya nang mga kokonti lang ang volume ng kanilang docket,” he said.
“Ang aming paraan na maibsan o masolusyonan 'yang mga ganyang vacancies, nag-a-assign kami ng mga judges na galing sa mga hindi masyadong busy na distrito o istasyon. So ilalagay namin sa mga very busy na stations in order to help ease the docket backlog,” he explained.
There are a total of 2,617 positions for trial court judges nationwide, based on figures from the OCA Court Management Office Report provided by a JBC official.