Qualified and 'truly' independent Chief Justice sought-A A +A
Tuesday, July 3, 2012
THE same standard demanded of deposed Chief Justice Renato Corona should be required by the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) when it screens the 25 aspirants who accepted their nomination, a senior lawmaker said Tuesday.
Albay Representative Edcel Lagman, former House Minority Leader, said the JBC should recommend only the "most qualified and truly independent-minded" nominees.
The JBC is the screening body, which will recommend at least three names to President Benigno Aquino III, who will then appoint Corona's replacement.
"The standards of not being beholden to the appointing power, impartiality, credibility and independence must constitute the same inflexible yardstick by which the President ought to measure the next Chief Justice," Lagman said.
"What were perceived as the negative factors which rooted out Corona must be the same factors which must weed out potential errant nominees," he added.
Corona was ousted after the Senate impeachment court in May voted 20-3, finding him guilty of untruthful declaration of assets and net worth.
Lagman also urged Aquino, who "campaigned publicly" for Corona's conviction, to desist from appointing a nominee who actively participated in the impeachment trial of the former chief magistrate, either as prosecutor, judge or witness, or one who is perceived to have coveted the position of Chief Justice.
Among those vying for the post are acting Chief Justice Antonio Carpio, who was perceived as Corona's rival, and Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, one of the witnesses of the House prosecution panel in the impeachment trial.
De Lima defended herself from accusations that she lacked independence due to her loyalty to the President.
"I was able to prove my independence when I headed an independent constitutional body and I can do that again. I can prove again my sense of independence and my capacity for independence if I join again another independent body (Supreme Court)," she told reporters.
Before her appointment to the Department of Justice, de Lima was chairperson of the Commission on Human Rights from 2008 to 2010, where she came out with statements critical of the Arroyo administration's involvement and handling of rights abuses by the police and military.
President Aquino is required to name the new top magistrate 90 days following the vacancy or until August 27.
Meanwhile, one of the prosecutors in the impeachment trial of Corona said the President should also consider the "unknown" nominees outside the Judiciary.
"All of them are qualified. As we all know, the President has the political will to appoint even an unknown if he thinks he or she has a proven track record," Citizens' Battle Against Corruption (Cibac) party-list Representative Sherwin Tugna told reporters in a press conference.
Tugna added the live television coverage of JBC interviews scheduled to begin on July 24 will remove any public apprehension on the appointment to be made by Aquino.
"Apprehensions will be cured in the live TV coverage of the JBC selection process because there, the public will see if the nominees have competence, integrity and are sincere. We will also be able to see their independence through the live media selection process," he said. (Kathrina Alvarez/Virgil Lopez/Sunnex)