THE Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) will start conducting a public interview today, Monday, on three nominees who are vying for the lone vacancy in the High Court.

Last June 21, the JBC opened its selection process to fill up the vacant slot in the Supreme Court (SC) after Chief Justice Renato Corona took over the post of then Chief Justice Reynato Puno, who retired last May 17.

Updates on President Benigno Aquino III's presidency

The interviews will begin at 9 a.m. at the hearing room of the SC main building.

The first of the 28 applicants to be subjected to a public interview are Court of Appeals Associate Justice Hakim Abdulwahid; Presiding Justice Ernesto Acosta and Associate Justice Lovell Bautista, both of the Court of Tax Appeals.

They will be followed in the afternoon by CA Associate Justices Mariflor Punzalan-Castillo and Japar Dimaampao.

On Wednesday, the collegial body will interview five more applicants (in order): CA Justices Remedios Salazar-Fernando and Portia Alino-Hormachuelos; family lawyer Ma. Carolina "Katrina" Legarda; lawyer-accountant Epifania Mendoza; and former UP Law Dean Raul Pangalangan.

On Thursday, scheduled are Sandiganbayan Acting Presiding Justice Edilberto Sandoval Jr.; Elections Commissioner Rene Sarmiento; lawyer Ma. Lourdes Sereno; CA Presiding Justice Andres Reyes Jr.; and CA Justice Bienvenido Reyes.

The last set of aspirants to face JBC on Friday include: UE Law Dean Amado Valdez; former Defense undersecretary for legal affairs lawyer Alberto Valenzuela Jr.; CA Justice Vicente Veloso; Ateneo Law Dean Cesar Villanueva; and Sandiganbayan Associate Justice Francisco Villaruz Jr.

Only 20 bets for the SC post will undergo the interview because the other eight had already been interview by the JBC in September and November last year when they applied for previous vacant posts, among them, CA Justices Estela Perlas-Bernabe, Rosmari Carandang, Magdangal De Leon, Isaias Dicdican, Jose Reyes Jr. and Noel Tijam; Ambassador Manuel Teehankee, and SC deputy court administrator Nimfa Vilches.

The eight-member council conducts interviews pursuant to their mandate to screen applicants and recommend nominees to the President to vacant judicial posts.

SC spokesman Midas Marquez said under the rules, President Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III has until August 17 to plug the vacancy, in view of the 90-day requirement under the Constitution.

Marquez said the collegial body still has ample time to meet this target and is expected to submit the shortlist on the first week of August.

This marks the first time that President Aquino will get to appoint a magistrate, with four more retiring justices throughout his six-year term.

In his six-year term, Aquino will have to appoint the replacements for Associate Justices Antonio Eduardo Nachura (June 13, 2011), Conchita Carpio-Morales (June 19, 2011), Roberto A. Abad (May 22, 2014) and Martin S. Villarama (April 14, 2016). (JCV/Sunnex)