Senior justices required to undergo public interview-A A +A
Sunday, June 24, 2012
RECENT events that led to the ouster of Chief Justice Renato Corona called for transparency in the selection of his replacement, and that includes the five most senior justices of the Supreme Court (SC) who had been automatically nominated for the position.
While in the past, former nominees to the top judicial post who are already members of the tribunal have formed a consensus to bypass the interview, the public may not be just as forgiving in view of recent blows to the judiciary as an institution, said lawyer Jose Mejia.
Mejia, the academe’s representative to the screening body Judicial and Bar Council (JBC), was referring to the ouster of Chief Justice Renato Corona by the Senate impeachment court in late May.
“We are not in the same situation as before. The public wants to hear what they want to say,” he said.
Thus, Mejia said, it is important that all nominees, including those who are already members of the SC, undergo public interview so that the public will be able to get to know them, along with the rest of the nominees.
Asked if the magistrates should again decide to shun the public interview, he said the JBC should put to a vote whether or not to give in to them.
The five most senior justices -- acting chief justice Antonio Carpio, Presbitero Velasco Jr., Teresita Leonardo-de Castro and Diosdado Peralta -- were automatically nominated for the Chief Justice position. Of the five, only Brion has accepted his nomination.
Aside from the five, the rest of the 14 members of the SC also received nominations, but Associate Justices Mariano del Castillo, Estela Perlas-Bernabe and Bienvenido Reyes have declined their respective nominations.
Mejia said he expects the number of nominees for the post to go down once the JBC starts its preliminary screening of the nominees who qualified.
As of last week, the number of nominees has risen to more than 70, but Mejia said this could still go down once the panel required nominees to signify their conformity to their nomination.
“We can already publish their names before end of July and then 10 days after, we will give the people the chance to oppose the nominations. If we schedule at least eight candidates per day, then by August, we will be ready to submit the shortlist to President Aquino,” he said.
Aquino has 90 days from the time of vacancy, or from May 29, to appoint the next Chief Justice.
Records showed that during the JBC interview for the retirement of then Chief Justice Reynato Puno, sitting SC justices broke tradition by undergoing a public interview.
Among them were then associate justices Brion, de Castro and Corona, who would eventually be appointed by former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo as Puno’s replacement.
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 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 as Chief Justice. (JCV/Sunnex)