Villaruz, Drilon decline Chief Justice nomination-A A +A
Thursday, June 28, 2012
SANDIGANBAYAN Presiding Justice Francisco Villaruz and administration ally Senator Franklin Drilon declined Thursday their respective nomination for the Chief Justice position.
The move brought the number of nominees who rejected their nominations to 15, as of Thursday.
The Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) is the constitutional body tasked to screen nominees and submit a shortlist to the President for consideration to vacant judicial posts, as well as the position of Ombudsman. The council has eight members.
A source from the JBC said that Villaruz, one of the first to be nominated for the lone Supreme Court (SC) vacancy, has informed the council that it is opting out of the race, despite that he has been perennially vying for a slot in the High Court at least seven times in the past.
Villaruz, 69, was also nominated last year for the vacancy in the SC with the retirement of then Associate Justices Antonio Eduardo Nachura and Conchita Carpio-Morales. For this particular vacancy, he was again recommended by lawyer Arturo De Castro.
Though Villaruz did not specify his reasons for declining, the source said it could be related to his age.
The mandatory age of retirement for SC magistrates is 70, which means that he would have less than a year to serve if he were to be appointed by the President.
Drilon, on the other hand, announced at a press forum that he is not interested in being appointed as Chief Justice, which became vacant when the Senate impeachment court, of which Drilon sat as senator-judge, convicted Renato Corona for culpable violation of the Constitution and betrayal of public trust in not declaring his bank deposits in his statement of assets, liability and net worth (SALN).
Now the chair of the ruling Liberal Party, Drilon was one of the 20 senator-judges who voted for Corona’s conviction. At one point, Drilon had been accused of acting like one of the prosecutors in the impeachment trial.
Aside from Villaruz and Drilon, other nominees who have declined their nomination were: SC justices Mariano del Castillo, Jose Catral-Mendoza, Estela Perlas-Bernabe and Bienvenido Reyes; Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa; Court of Appeals justices Andres Reyes and Magdangal de Leon; former Energy Secretary Raphael Lotilla; former Defense secretary Gilbert Teodoro; IBP President Roan Libarios; certain Pedro Aquino, Marianito Sasondoncillo and Gabriel Ingles.
JBC member Jose Mejia, representing the academe, said he was informed by the JBC secretariat that there are already 69 nominees for the post, including the two applicants and a new nominee, Commission on Audit (COA) chair Ma. Gracia Pulido-Tan.
Tan, who replaced Reynaldo Villar as COA chair, was earlier appointed for a fixed term as COA chair expiring on February 2, 2015. Prior to her stint as state auditor, she was undersecretary of Finance for revenue operations until 2005.
She was managing partner at the Tan Venturanza Velez law firm and became a consultant for the Ministry of Finance of the People's Republic of China’s Tax Policy and Administration project under the auspices of the Asian Development Bank.
Meanwhile, former Solicitor General Francisco Chavez, himself a nominee for the CJ post, said he will file a petition at the SC to challenge the current composition of JBC members, particularly of having two representations from Congress.
Chavez insists that this violates the letter of the Constitution, which allows only one representative from Congress in the JBC.
This, despite the JBC’s explanation that Senator Chiz Escudero and Iloilo Representative Niel Tupas, the chairs of their respective chamber’s committee on justice, are only worth half a vote in the JBC, or sometimes, they vote alternately on JBC nominations and other matters.
But in a phone interview with reporters, Mejia urged Chavez to no longer pursue filing the petition in court as it might only derail the JBC’s mandate of submitting a shortlist in time for President Aquino to make an appointment within 90 days from the time of vacancy, which commenced May 29.
“Kung pwede nga, anything that will not (disrupt) yung 90 days. All of us have our time set to do our work. So ideally, sana i-maintain na lang na ganoon (JBC composition). Pero yun nga prerogative ni Atty. Chavez yun, pero I do not even suggest that he brings it to court. In fact, sana wag na lang yan dalhin sa court,” he said.
According to Mejia, allowing two representatives from the legislative branch has always been the tradition in the JBC, and unless retrained by the SC, they are inclined to continue with that practice.
“Ang (position) namin is, that’s been the practice and that is what we have decided to follow and siguro if there’s another directive to us, then we have no other choice but to follow that,” he added. (JCV/Sunnex)