SC seeks comment on petition to restore 2 JBC seats for lawmakers

THE Supreme Court (SC) has directed the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC), the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG), the Senate, and the House of Representatives to comment on the petition of Congressman Reynaldo Umali that seeks to reverse the high court's ruling that removed one of the two seats for legislators at the JBC.

On Tuesday, Court spokesperson Atty. Theodore Te said the following offices were ordered to comment on Umali's petition within a non-extendible period of ten days.

The petition for certiorari and mandamus dated December 29 filed by Umali assailed the April 16, 2013 decision of the SC, affirming its July 17, 2012 ruling that struck down the practice of allowing two members of the Congress to vote in the JBC deliberations, as it is unconstitutional.

Under the JBC agreement, Umali, the Justice committee chairperson for the House of Representatives, will sit as an ex-officio member from January to June while the Justice Committee chairperson for Senate, Senator Richard Gordon, sits from July to December.

The members of the JBC, chaired by Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, serve for 4 years, except for the ex-officio members.

Umali in his petition questioned the JBC’s current membership set-up for lawmakers and called it problematic as President Rodrigo Duterte will appoint at least 10 SC magistrates in the next 3 years.

Just last December 2 and 9, the SC held deliberations on the two vacant positions in the SC, as well as those in the Court of Appeals and the Sandiganbayan.

In these deliberations, Umali's votes were not counted as his term in the JBC as an ex-officio member has already expired.

Aside from declaring the six-month rotational representation of Congress in the JBC as unconstitutional, Umali also urged the high court to recognize the votes he casted in previous JBC proceedings.

The JBC is constitutionally mandated to screen and vet nominees to the President for vacant posts in the judiciary. (SunStar Philippines)
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