Abad hails high court’s ‘pragmatism’ on JBC issueBy TJ Burgonio
Philippine Daily Inquirer
MANILA, Philippines—A Malacañang official on Saturday welcomed the Supreme Court’s “pragmatic approach” to the issue of whether a senator and a congressman could take part at the same time in vetting ousted Chief Justice Renato Corona’s possible successors.
The court’s interim ruling allowing Senator Francis Escudero and Iloilo Representative Niel Tupas Jr. to continue to sit on the Judicial and Bar Council cleared the way for the vetting and eventual appointment of the next chief justice by President Benigno Aquino, Budget Secretary Florencio Abad said.
“The issue has more to do with respecting a co-equal branch of government,” Abad said in a text message, pointing out that the high court took judicial notice of Congress’ assertion that it is composed of two separate and independent chambers.
“The House cannot bind the Senate and similarly the Senate cannot act on behalf of the House. The threat of non-participation in the JBC by Congress may create further legal and constitutional complications in the decisions of the JBC. The SC took a pragmatic approach,” he added.
The high court ruled that Escudero and Tupas may continue to sit as ex-officio members of the JBC and take part in the nomination process for the next chief magistrate, pending final resolution of a petition questioning the composition of the body by lawyer Frank Chavez.
It said it was only fair for the two lawmakers to remain on the JBC since they took part in the selection process that began June 6, when the body published its invitation for the submission of nominations and applications for the vacancy.
With the ruling, the high court in effect suspended a portion of its July 17 ruling declaring as unconstitutional the presence of two congressional representatives on the JBC instead of only one as mandated by the Constitution.
In protest of this earlier ruling, Senate and House leaders barred Escudero and Tupas from taking part in the JBC deliberations, including the interviews of the nominees.
The JBC is set to announce its shortlist of nominees for the post on Monday, and later submit this to Aquino, who has until August 27 to announce his choice.
The ruling also precludes any delay in the deliberations on the President’s choice, Abad said.
“It gives Congress the go-ahead to participate as separate chambers with separate full votes in the JBC deliberations to draw up a list of chief justice nominees to be presented to the President,’’ he said.
An earlier Senate resolution calling on the JBC to suspend the selection process until the Supreme Court has made a final ruling on Chavez’s petition raised the possibility of delay in the appointment of a new chief justice as the Constitution mandates that the vacancy must be filled within 90 days.