De Lima: Rules on disqualification favor Supreme Court justices-A A +A
Wednesday, August 15, 2012
MANILA -- Justice Secretary Leila de Lima vowed Tuesday to have the rules on disqualification of candidates for judicial positions revisited once she returns to the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC), saying they favor Supreme Court “insiders.”
Her statement came after she was disqualified from the final shortlist of nominees for the Chief Justice post due to her pending disbarment cases. The Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) refused to junk De Lima’s appeal to resolve the cases against her.
Iloilo Representative Niel Tupas Jr., an ex-officio member of the JBC, said De Lima’s disqualification was arrived at based on the rules of the JBC.
"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," Tupas said in a press conference Tuesday.
But De Lima said the current JBC rule on disqualification is lopsided to favor "insiders" of the Supreme Court since they cannot be disqualified, removed or charged because they are impeachable officials.
De Lima was temporarily replaced by Palace Undersecretary Michael Musngi following her decision to accept the nomination to be the next Chief Justice last July.
"I will push for a review of that rule in so far as the Supreme Court position is concerned. I experienced it. I'm a victim of a lopsided rule," she said.
De Lima was apparently alluding to the disbarment case of Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, who topped the JBC's shortlist of nominees for the post.
The disbarment complaint against Carpio was filed last week by Lauro Vizconde for allegedly influencing his fellow magistrates in reversing the guilty verdict against Hubert Webb and several others, who were principal accused in the murder of his wife and daughters in 1991.
De Lima, on the other hand, was disqualified because the IBP junked her appeal to resolve the disbarment cases within the period of selection process by the JBC.
The Justice secretary is facing disbarment cases for defying a Supreme Court 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.
Aside from Carpio, the JBC also included in its shortlist of nominees Associate Justices Roberto Abad, Arturo Brion, Maria Lourdes Sereno, Teresita Leonardo de-Castro, Solicitor General Francis Jardeleza, former Executive Secretary and San Juan Representative Ronaldo Zamora, and former Ateneo law dean Cesar Villanueva.
The shortlist of nominees already reached the table of President Benigno Aquino III, a Malacañang official confirmed Tuesday.
Despite the setback, De Lima said she will still continue to perform her duties as member of the JBC being part of her constitutional mandate as Justice secretary.
“I can still work with them (other members of the JBC), that’s my mandate. I’m the secretary of Justice. I cannot relinquish that duty because that is in the Constitution. If I relinquish that, I might as well resign,” she said.
De Lima said she will no longer appeal the decision of the JBC, given the August 27 deadline for Aquino to fill up the vacancy.
She also acknowledged the JBC’s sole jurisdiction to choose who among the candidates should be shortlisted.
"I'm trying to accept it (disqualification) but I have not really accepted it at this point," she said.
Meanwhile, deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte said the President received the shortlist Monday afternoon.
"On matters relative to the JBC, what we can confirm today (Tuesday) is that the Office of the President has officially received the transmittal of the shortlist. It was received yesterday (Monday) afternoon as per the Office of the Executive Secretary," Valte said at a press briefing.
While she confirmed the transmittal, she refused to comment on the recent developments in the JBC, saying she has yet to get guidance from the President on the matter.
"We will be deferring comment on JBC-related questions that you may have pending such time that we have spoken to the President," she said.
Asked to comment on De Lima's move questioning the JBC as to why she was not included in the shortlist, Valte said it is the prerogative of the Justice secretary to do so.
"It is the prerogative of any nominee to ask some questions or to raise some questions to the JBC," the Palace official said.
Aquino has until August 27 to choose the replacement of former Chief Justice Renato Corona, who was impeached and convicted for culpable violation of the Constitution and betrayal of public trust.
Malacañang earlier said that the President will limit his choice from the shortlist given by the JBC.
But if the President decided not to appoint someone from the shortlist, he may ask the JBC to revise its shortlist but it will take time as the council would have to repeat the entire selection process again.
Valte assured that the President is aware of the constitutional prescriptive period that he has to observe in making a decision on who will be the next Supreme Court head. (JCV/Virgil Lopez/Jill Beltran/Sunnex)