Enrile: Supreme Court ruling on JBC flawedBy Cathy Yamsuan
Philippine Daily Inquirer
Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile on Sunday dismissed suggestions that he was out to subvert the Supreme Court by declaring its ruling on the composition of the Judicial Bar Council (JBC) flawed. The JBC is screening candidates for the post of ousted Chief Justice Renato Corona.
Enrile, the presiding judge in the Senate impeachment trial of Corona, and Speaker Feliciano Belmonte have decided to pull out of the JBC proceedings after the high court upheld former Solicitor General Francisco Chavez’s contention that Congress should have only one representative in the council as mandated in the Constitution, instead of two from the two chambers as practiced in the past years.
Senator Joker Arroyo has said the move by Enrile and Belmonte was “tantamount to defying the Supreme Court” the final arbiter of questions of law
“We are not boycotting anything,” Enrile said. “It’s just that we do not want to participate in what we consider a flawed process.”
Enrile, the chief martial law enforcer of then dictator Ferdinand Marcos who critics say is now on a legacy mode, raised the possibility that the legitimacy of Corona’s successor would be questioned.
“Even if I am kicked out of the Senate as president, that is my position. Because, my God! If somebody is going to file a question later on against whoever is appointed Chief Justice, and it is not farfetched that somebody will raise that, a problem will come to the Senate again,” Enrile said.
In that event, he asked, “What would be the moral basis when we condoned the process because our representatives participated in it?”
House Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales II agreed with Enrile. “The moment they ignore us, they are already tainting the process,” he said.
The Supreme Court is expected to rule this week on the motion for reconsideration filed by Congress against its earlier decision limiting the membership of the JBC to just one legislator.
Chavez has urged the court not to reconsider its ruling. He said the latest move by JBC members Senator Francis Escudero and Iloilo Representative Niel Tupas deserved “scant consideration” because it was a mere rehash of Justice Roberto Abad’s dissenting opinion.
“Respondents cannot cite any direct authority or decisional law to support their position. They take refuge in a feeble dissenting opinion … a sorry footnote to a submission that failed to convince the majority,” Chavez said.
Just like a piano
Enrile earlier warned that more issues could arise in the JBC proceedings, particularly the absence of a Chief Justice and a justice secretary as ex-officio chair and member, respectively, in the selection of Corona’s replacement.
Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, the acting Chief Justice, has inhibited himself from the council proceedings since he is a nominee for the position. Associate Justice Diosdado Peralta replaced Carpio.
Justice Undersecretary Michael Musngi has substituted for Justice Secretary Leila de Lima—another nominee who had inhibited herself from the council’s vetting process.
Enrile noted that these irregularities could later be questioned.
“The problem is that this is all ad hoc,” he observed. “The Constitution is like a piano. When you interpret it, you must tune up your interpretation to harmonize all the other keys of the entire organic law.”
Before Enrile and Belmonte announced their withdrawal from the JBC, Tupas partially participated in the questioning of the nominees for Chief Justice.
Enrile said he would call a Senate caucus this afternoon to discuss its position on the JBC.
Arroyo welcomed the move. He said it would be better if the Senate came out with a plenary resolution “reflecting the majority position as a corrective measure,” adding that “boycott is not a good remedy.” With reports from Leila B. Salaverria and Jerome C. Aning