Lawyer to question JBC composition in Supreme CourtBy Marlon Ramos
Philippine Daily Inquirer
See you in court, Chiz.
Former Solicitor General Francisco Chavez on Tuesday accepted the challenge of Senator Francis “Chiz” Escudero, who dared him to bring to the Supreme Court his concern questioning the composition of the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC).
“I did not expect that kind of response from Escudero. But since he has dared me to elevate the issue to the Supreme Court, I assure him—as sure as I am that the sun will rise tomorrow—that I will certainly file a petition,” Chavez told the Philippine Daily Inquirer over the phone.
While several individuals had expressed misgivings about having both a senator and a congressman in the JBC at the same time, he said this could be the first time that the issue would be brought to the high tribunal.
“This has to be corrected. Now is the right time and I accept the challenge that I file the case in the Supreme Court,” Chavez said.
He warned the JBC last week that allowing both Escudero and Iloilo Representative Niel Tupas Jr. to sit as ex-officio members of the council as representatives of the two chambers of the Congress was a violation of the 1987 Constitution. Tupas was much criticized as the fumbling head of the House team that prosecuted Chief Justice Renato Corona who was ousted last month.
The Constitution states: “A Judicial and Bar Council is hereby created under the supervision of the Supreme Court composed of the Chief Justice as ex-officio chairman, the Secretary of Justice, and a representative of the Congress as ex-officio members, a representative of the Integrated Bar, a professor of law, a retired member of the Supreme Court and a representative of the private sector.
The JBC vets nominees for judges and justices.
“I hope that if Escudero feels strongly about his position, he will be the one to argue the case for the JBC before the Supreme Court,” said Chavez, one of those nominated to the JBC to replace Corona.
But the lawyer said he would have to wait for the formal response of the JBC to the letter he sent to the eight-member body on June 22 before submitting any pleading to the high court.
Calling it an “unconstitutional deviation” and “anomalous,” Chavez said the JBC should “clean up their mess” by respecting Section 8, Article VIII of the Constitution.
“The members of Congress who sit in the JBC cannot proceed on the basis of presumptions and assumptions of regularity. They must proceed upon the claims of strong constitutional basis (which) they have none,” Chavez said.
“When the language of the Constitution is clear, it does not require any kind of interpretation. The phrase ‘a representative of Congress’ means one, single or solo. It does not mean two, double or twice,” he added.
He argued that interpretation of the constitutional provisions should only be made to clarify certain ambiguous words or phrases.
“When the language or phrase (is simple), that’s the way it should be read and it’s as simple as that,” he said.
Citing court records, Chavez said the JBC only started to allow both a senator and a congressman to join the body in 2001 during the term of Chief Justice Hilario Davide Jr.
Not keen on change
Before that, he said, the Senate and the House took turns in designating a representative of Congress to the JBC.
“We will trace the history of the JBC composition from the time of its creation (in 1987) up to the present time. I think it was only during the time of Davide, who was basically a politician, when this kind of anomalous composition started,” Chavez said.
On Monday, Escudero said the JBC was not keen on changing its membership—as suggested by Chavez—without any order from the Supreme Court.
“The position of the JBC is that unless enjoined by the court in a contrary opinion, the JBC will not change the procedures it had been observing before,” the senator stressed.
“Maybe, it would be better if this would be brought to the court so it could be settled once and for all,” he added.