Justices rule vs 2 Congress reps in JBC-A A +A
Saturday, July 21, 2012
MANILA -- Voting 7-2 with five abstentions, the Supreme Court (SC) said the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC), currently vetting candidates for the position of Chief Justice, should only have one member from Congress.
The same decision released Friday, however, left to Congress the determination of who between Senator Francis Escudero and Iloilo Representative Niel Tupas Jr. should sit in the council tasked to submit a shortlist of names to President Benigno Aquino III, who will then pick the next top magistrate.
The Court held the use of the singular letter "a" preceding "representative of Congress" in Section 8(1), Article VIII of the 1987 Constitution leaves no room for any other interpretation.
Considering the language of the subject constitutional provision is clear and unambiguous, there is no need to check the records of the 1986 Constitutional Commission, the decision reads.
"To allow the legislature to have more quantitative influence in the JBC by having more than one voice speak, whether with one full vote or one-half a vote each, would, as one former congressman and member of the JBC put it, ‘negate the principle of equality among the three branches of government which is enshrined in the Constitution,'" the Court said.
The decision came after former solicitor general Francisco Chavez, who rejected his nomination weeks ago, asked the SC not to allow Escudero and Tupas from further participating in the JBC proceedings because the eight-man composition is unconstitutional.
"We have achieved a milestone because we have corrected today not only an unlawful practice but also a clear constitutional deviation," Chavez said in an interview.
Escudero, when sought for comment, said that as a student of law, he is bound to respect the wisdom of the Court.
Associate Justice Jose Mendoza penned the decision, where he was joined by Justices Diosdado Peralta, Lucas Bersamin, Martin Villarama Jr., Jose Perez, Bienvenido Reyes, and Estela Perlas-Bernabe.
Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio and Justices Presbitero Velasco, Teresita Leonardo-De Castro, and Maria Lourdes Sereno took no part as they are among those considered for nomination by the JBC to the post vacated by Renato Corona on May 29.
Associate Justice Arturo Brion, also a nominee, was on leave when the decision was reached last Tuesday.
Justice Roberto Abad, also a nominee for the position, dissented along with Justice Mariano Del Castillo.
Abad said "neither the Senate nor the House of Representatives can by itself claim to represent the Congress. Those who drafted Section 8(1) did not intend to limit the term 'Congress' to just either of the two Houses."
According to the decision, the JBC's seven-member composition is a practical solution should there be a stalemate in voting. In fact, the JBC was composed of seven members since it was created in 1987 until 1994.
"Needless to state, the remedy lies in the amendment of this constitutional provision. The courts merely give effect to the lawgiver’s intent. The solemn power and duty of the Court to interpret and apply the law does not include the power to correct, by reading into the law what is not written therein," the Court held.
The ruling is immediately executory. (Virgil Lopez/Sunnex)