Umali wants judiciary appointees to get lawmakers' nod

ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 15 2018 05:33 PM

MANILA - House justice committee chairman Reynaldo Umali on Tuesday floated the idea of subjecting judiciary appointees to the scrutiny of lawmakers in the Commission on Appointments (CA). 

Under the current setup, the Judicial Bar and Council (JBC) screens applicants to the bench and draws up a shortlist of candidates, from which the President chooses his appointees. 

JBC interviews are made public, but not how the body shortlists candidates who are deemed to have complied with requirements, Umali said in an interview with ANC. 

"We felt in Congress that it is far better to go back to the old system of all justices going through the Commission on Appointments," he said. 

"Everything is exposed to the public. Anybody can come in, complain, then it is part of the process. In that sense, transparency is the better mode of selection."

Just like Cabinet officials do today, judiciary appointees used to seek confirmation from the CA under the 1935 Constitution. This changed under the 1973 Constitution, which gave President Ferdinand Marcos sole authority to appoint justices. 

After Marcos was ousted, the JBC was created through the 1987 Constitution to screen applications to the judiciary, and the Ombudsman and Deputy Ombudsmen posts. 

The JBC came under fire recently for shortlisting ousted Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno even after she allegedly failed to disclose her wealth in full when she applied for her post in 2012. 

Supreme Court justices last week ousted Sereno for failure to submit several of her Statements of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth, as required of applicants for the top magistrate post. 

IMPEACHMENT, WHAT NOW? 

The same allegation was raised in the separate impeachment complaint against Sereno. Umali's panel in March approved the articles of impeachment. 

"The impeachment complaint stays for the moment. The matter has been submitted to the rules committee. I would like to think that this afternoon, this will be the subject or part of the agenda," Umali said. 

It may be prudent to wait for the finality of the Supreme Court ruling on Sereno's ouster before the House decides on the impeachment case, added the Oriental Mindoro representative. 

The country's first female chief justice will appeal her sacking, her spokesperson Jojo Lacanilao said over the weekend.