2 magistrates decline Chief Justice nomination-A A +A
Thursday, June 21, 2012
TWO Supreme Court (SC) magistrates who have been nominated in the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) have decided not to join the fray and declined their nomination for the chief justice position.
Associate Justices Mariano del Castillo and Estela Perlas-Bernabe have asked the JBC to delist them from its record of candidates since they are not interested in the position.
Del Castillo, who was nominated on June 19 by lawyer Arturo de Castro, faces an impeachment complaint at the House of Representatives for allegedly plagiarizing several portions in his ponencia on the case filed by a group of so-called “comfort women.”
The SC, however, cleared him of any wrongdoing after an investigation and his staff admitted to have accidentally deleted footnotes acknowledging international law experts whose opinions he quoted in his decision.
Bernabe, on the other hand, gave no reason for declining her nomination by a certain Gregorio Bataller. The lady justice is the second appointee of President Benigno Aquino III to the High Court.
Aside from the two SC justices, also declining his nomination was former senator Rene Saguisag, who himself submitted nominations to the JBC for two other persons: SC justice Roberto Abad and former executive secretary and San Juan Representative Ramon Zamora, who both accepted their nominations.
Saguisag, who was elected senator in 1987 until 1992, wrote the JBC saying he was already past the mandatory retirement age of 70. He will be turning 73 on August 14. Prior to his stint at the Senate, Saguisag was spokesman for the late President Corazon Aquino.
Other nominees who declined were: former Defense secretary Gilberto Teodoro Jr., former Energy secretary Raphael Lotilla, Dean Rodolfo Robles, Prosecutor Marianito Sasondoncillo, and Integrated Bar of the Philippines President Roan Libarios.
Meanwhile, JBC member Jose Mejia, representing the academe, said under the rules of the JBC, all qualified applicants and nominees shall undergo a public interview, including the five most senior justices of the SC, should they accept their nomination.
The five most senior magistrates -- Antonio Carpio, Presbitero Velasco Jr., Teresita Leonardo-de Castro, Arturo Brion and Diosdado Peralta -- were automatically nominated to the post vacated by ousted Chief Justice Renato Corona, whose impeachment by the House of Representatives was affirmed by the Senate impeachment court.
Except for Brion, none of the most senior justices have yet to inform the JBC of their intention to accept their automatic nomination.
In an interview following the JBC executive meeting on Thursday, Mejia said: “The rule as far as I know, (is that) if there is a need for an interview you have to sit down for an interview. I know even (former) Chief Justice Corona had to be interviewed.”
Corona decided to undergo the JBC interview in 2010 for the chief justice post, although traditionally, senior magistrates who were automatically nominated had rejected such interview.
In 2006, the SC collided with the JBC on the issue of whether the five most senior members of the Court should be required to participate in the public interview process to replace then retiring Chief Justice Artemio Panganiban.
Then Associate Justices Reynato Puno, Leonardo Quisumbing, Consuelo Ynares-Santiago, Angelina Sandoval-Gutierrez and Carpio individually wrote the JBC informing the body of their decision not to subject themselves to the process.
In their individual letters, the magistrates told the JBC that there was no reason for the council to examine their fitness and integrity, as they would not have been appointed to the SC if there were doubts on her qualifications. They added that all justices in the SC are equal, and the position of chief justice is administrative in nature.
Panganiban, who was then the chair of the JBC, accepted the decision of the magistrates, stressing that the JBC has no power to compel anybody to attend the public interview. Puno was eventually appointed to as Chief Justice.
This year, Mejia said the council is drafting the guidelines for the live media coverage of the public interviews of the nominees.
“Basically, ang bottomline is to allow the coverage with the least possible distractions. Initially, what we are thinking of is yung pag-hookup to one camera instead of all cameras coming in but wala pang definitive dun sa plan na ipi-present. Meron nang draft guidelines but that will be presented to the JBC en banc on Monday,” he said.
He said while they have agreed to make public the interviews, the deliberations and voting process of the JBC remains confidential.
“We want to take it one step at a time. We want to see how the live coverage of the public interview will go, kasi iba yung atmosphere eh, parang nasa boardroom ka, then you will be letting cameras again. So we will take a look at what will be the result of the live coverage and then we will decide later on the other aspect of the coverage,” said Mejia. (JCV/Sunnex)