MANILA - (UPDATED) Senior justices of the Supreme Court are exempt from public interviews when they vie for the Chief Justice position, a member of the Judicial and Bar Council said Monday.
The magistrates of the top court, including those who were recently subjected to public interview, approved unanimously the resolution seeking to forego this step, said Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra, an ex officio member of the body constitutionally mandated to screen and vet nominees to the judiciary and the Office of the Ombudsman.
By a majority vote, the JBC agreed to dispense with the public interviews of senior SC justices "without prejudice to closed-door interviews" by the members of the panel, Guevarra said in a statement.
"The majority of the JBC members took the view that sitting members of the Supreme Court had already been publicly interviewed when they originally applied for their SC positions, and any public inquiry anew on matters pertaining to their SALNs and other personal matters in full view of the public thru live media coverage would not serve any substantially useful purpose," he said.
"In any event, the CJ nominees will still be thoroughly interviewed by the JBC, though not in full glare of the public, and if any formal amendment to the JBC rules is necessary, the same will be so done," he added.
Guevarra said based on the resolution, only the 5 senior magistrates who accepted their automatic nomination and those who have served the high court for at least 5 years are exempted from the public panel interviews.
This means that Supreme Court Associate Justices Estela Perlas-Bernabe and Antonio Carpio, who have accepted their automatic nomination to replace retired Chief Justice Teresita Leonardo-De Castro, would no longer be publicly interviewed by the JBC.
Associate Justices Justice Diosdado Peralta and Lucas Bersamin were earlier interviewed for the position when it was vacated after Maria Lourdes Sereno was ousted. President Rodrigo Duterte picked De Castro to be Sereno's replacement.
De Castro reached the mandatory age of retirement last October 8. Duterte has to appoint his second Chief Justice appointee 90 days from the day of vacancy.
"For non-SC justices applying for CJ, the public interview is mandatory because they’re not even part of the SC yet. For junior SC associate justices, they have yet to prove themselves worthy of aspiring to become 'primus inter pares' (first among equals)," Guevarra added.
- report from Mike Navallo, ABS-CBN News