JBC member: De Lima was never singled out-A A +A
Tuesday, August 14, 2012
MANILA (Updated 5:15 p.m.) -- Justice Secretary Leila de Lima's disqualification from the final shortlist of Chief Justice nominees was arrived at based on the rules of the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC), an ex-officio member said.
"I think under the circumstances, she was not singled out by the JBC. The JBC followed its own rules and those rules have been the rules ever since," Iloilo Representative Niel Tupas Jr. said in a press conference Tuesday.
Tupas is an ex-officio member of the JBC in his capacity as chairman of the House committee on justice.
“I sympathize with the Secretary. In fact, I would have voted for her if she was not disqualified,” he added.
De Lima was disqualified after the JBC decided to junk a proposal that would suspend Rule 4, Section 5 of the JBC, which disqualifies applicants to judicial posts if they have pending criminal or regular administrative cases.
Tupas said only de Lima will benefit if the JBC changed the rules on disqualification.
The Justice Secretary is facing disbarment cases for defying a Supreme Court (SC) temporary restraining order on the travel ban on former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo last November and for publicly criticizing ousted Chief Justice Renato Corona early this year.
Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Chairperson Teresita Herbosa and Solicitor General Francis Jardeleza also have administrative cases.
But Tupas said there was no prima facie evidence yet on the disbarment complaint against Jardeleza while Herbosa's case was already dismissed by the SC last week.
That gave way for their inclusion in the voting on Monday as Jardeleza received six votes. Herbosa only got four, one short of the minimum.
De Lima cases are still pending before the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP), which promised to resolve these by end of September or October.
The IBP made the statement after de Lima appealed in an ambush interview to have her cases acted upon immediately.
"She does not have to worry about it. That is part of the mandate given to us by the SC," IBP spokesperson Trixie Angeles said by phone.
She also dismissed de Lima's accusations that the IBP and the High Court sat on the cases to block her bid to replace Corona later this month.
"We do not want to put too much weight on an emotional statement. The IBP will not bond with any group to destroy anyone's bid to become Chief Justice. The IBP is never set out to do that," Angeles said.
High Court acting spokesperson Gleoresty Guerra said de Lima has the right to express her opinion but maintained there was no conspiracy. "The SC, JBC, and the IBP simply followed the rules," she said in a text message to Sun.Star.
A Palace official, who confirmed that President Benigno Aquino III received the shortlist on Monday afternoon, said it is de Lima's right to question her exit from the race.
"It is the prerogative of any nominee to ask some questions or to raise some questions to the JBC," deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said.
Those who made it to the final cut as well are Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio (seven votes), Associate Justices Roberto Abad (six votes), Arturo Brion (six votes), Maria Lourdes Sereno (six votes), and Teresita Leonardo-De Castro (five votes).
Completing the list are former San Juan City Representative Ronaldo Zamora (six votes) and former Ateneo de Manila law dean Cesar Villanueva (five votes).
“The ball is now with President. We’ve done our job. It is now the President’s duty and mandate to choose among the list,” Tupas said.
Malacañang earlier said Aquino may choose the next Chief Justice from the shortlist but if rejected, it will take time for the council to come up with a new one because the selection process-from publication of vacancy to voting-will have to be repeated.
Aquino has less than two weeks or until August 27 to fill in the position, which was vacated by Corona after Senate impeachment court last May found him guilty of betrayal of public trust and culpable violation of the Constitution for failure to truthfully declare his peso and dollar accounts in the asset statement.
Tupas, who was also the lead prosecutor in the impeachment trial, said they will remain vigilant to ensure that the next Chief Justice has probity, integrity, independence, and competence.
"It's our duty, the duty of the committee on justice, and member of the House to make sure that impeachable officers are performing their functions according to their constitutional mandate,” he said. (Kathrina Alvarez/Virgil Lopez/Jill Beltran/Sunnex)