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Chief Justice on Trial

SC asks JBC to comment on Chavez petition

July 3, 2012 4:45pm

The Supreme Court on Tuesday asked the Judicial and Bar Council to comment until Monday on the petition filed by former Solicitor General Francisco Chavez seeking to declare as unconstitutional the eight-man composition of the council.

The JBC is the body constitutionally mandated to vet nominees for vacant judicial posts.

SC spokesperson Gleoresty Guerra said all the justices who have accepted their nominations to become chief justice inhibited from the voting, with the exception of Associate Justice Roberto Abad, who is on official leave. 
 
Aside from him, the other nominees are acting Chief Justice Antonio Carpio, Presbitero Velasco Jr., Teresita Leonardo-De Castro, Arturo Brion, and Ma. Lourdes Sereno.
 
On Monday, Chavez filed a petition questioning the composition of the JBC, insisting that it should only have seven and not eight members.
 
The petition said that under Section 8, paragraph (1), Article VIII of the 1987 Philippine Constitution, it provides that the JBC shall only have seven members and that Congress [Senate and House of Representatives] shall have only one representative in the body.
 
Chavez cited that from the creation of JBC in 1987 until 1994, the Congress had only one representative in the council. From 1994 to 2001, Chavez said the council had two representatives from Congress, but only accounting for half a vote each.
 
Currently, the two representatives of Congress have two separate votes counted as one vote each.
 
The eight current members of the JBC are Acting Chief Justice Antonio Carpio as ex-officio chairman, with Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, Sen. Francis Escudero, Iloilo Rep. Niel Tupas Jr. as ex-officio members.
 
Lawyer Ma. Milagros Fernan-Cayosa, representing the Integrated Bar of the Philippines; lawyer Jose Mejia representing the academe; retired SC Associate Justice Regino Hermosisima Jr.; and Aurora Santiago-Lagman representing the private sector, are regular members.
 
Named as respondents in Chavez's petition were the JBC, Escudero and Tupas. 
 
Chavez also asked the court to issue a temporary restraining order to stop the JBC from proceeding with its ongoing search for a replacement of ousted Chief Justice Renato Corona.
 
A week before his petition, Chavez had already filed a letter-query to the JBC questioning its composition. 
 
Constitutionalist Fr. Joaquin Bernas, however, allayed fears that having eight members in the JBC could open the possibility of having a tie vote.
 
“The members of Congress are half a vote each or they alternated," Bernas stressed.
 
“It [the composition] is really seven 7 but in the practice before, it really was 8," Bernas added.
 
Chavez himself had been nominated to become the next chief justice by Manuel Baviera, organizer and founding member of the Whistle Blowers' Association of the Philippines.
 
The July 2 deadline for application ended Monday with Chavez neither accepting nor declining his nomination.

The JBC had earlier said that recommendations without conformity of the person being endorsed are automatically discarded after the deadline for application. — RSJ, GMA News