MALACAÑANG officials said everyone should just leave the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) alone and let them do their mandate of screening nominees to vacancies in the judicial branch.

Secretary to the Cabinet Silvestre Bello III and Deputy Presidential Spokesman Gary Olivar both believed that JBC is an independent body, which should not allow itself to be influenced by the politicking and comments of some sectors.

Click here for stories and updates on the Sinulog 2010 Festival.

"We are hoping that our JBC won't be carried away by politicking, intrigues and all sorts of stories on politics and campaign, that they will fulfill their duties to the constitution and the to the service of public interest," Olivar said.

He said this is what Malacañang expects of the JBC when it meets Monday to discuss and decide whether they would screen and draw up a list of nominees for the position of Chief Justice of the Supreme Court (SC) in anticipation of the vacancy starting May 17 when Chief Justice Reynato Puno retires.

Some sectors feel that Puno's successor should be appointed by the incoming president given that there is an election ban and the president has 90 days to fill up a vacancy, while some wants President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to name the next head of the High Court to avoid any gap or hiatus in the judiciary leadership.

But Olivar, in a radio interview, admitted that if it were up to Malacanang there should be no gap in the judiciary leadership.

"We think that the national interest rests on having a Chief Justice. There should be no gap especially because we are having an election, there will be a transfer of executive powers. This is the worst time that an important branch of the government, the judiciary, has no chief executive in the form of Chief Justice," he said.

Bello, in a separate interview, said Malacañang would just have to wait and see what the JBC decides on Monday.

He said if JBC decides to submit a list of nominees, the President could choose and appoint someone, but if they choose otherwise, "we cannot do anything."

He said the Constitution clearly states that any appointments in judicial branch of government should come from the nominees of the JBC.

"We should leave the JBC alone...We should let the JBC do its work and comply with its mandate under the Constitution, so let's leave them alone. They are intelligent and so I think they should know what their responsibility is," he ended. (JMR/SUnnex)