The Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) on Wednesday agreed to submit to President Aquino a list of seven nominees for a seat on the 15-member Supreme Court left vacant following the elevation of Associate Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno to the post of ousted Chief Justice Renato Corona.
Nominated were government peace negotiator Marvic Leonen, De La Salle University law dean Jose Manuel Diokno, former Energy Secretary Raphael Lotilla, Court of Appeals Presiding Justice Andres Reyes Jr. and Court of Appeals Associate Justices Jose Reyes Jr., Noel Tijam and Rosemari Carandang.
The seven nominees were among the 15 candidates who were interviewed on Oct. 23 and 25 by the eight-member JBC led by Sereno, its chair.
The list was to be submitted Wednesday afternoon to Malacañang. Mr. Aquino has until Nov. 22 to appoint the new Supreme Court associate justice.
“The consensus is that it’s a good list. We are satisfied and confident that the President will be able to make a choice out of the seven,” Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, ex-officio member of the JBC, told reporters after an hourlong meeting that decided the final list.
According to Rep. Niel Tupas, also a JBC member, Leonen, Lotilla, Carandang and Andres Reyes got the nod of seven JBC members; Jose Reyes and Tijam, six; and Diokno, five.
The eight applicants who did not make the short list were Securities and Exchange Commission Chair Teresita Herbosa, former University of Perpetual Help System law dean Jose-Santos B. Bisquera, Sandiganbayan Associate Justice Maria Cristina J. Cornejo, former Regional Trial Court Judge Adoracion P. Cruz-Avisado, former Ateneo law dean Cesar L. Villanueva and Court of Appeals Associate Justices Magdangal M. de Leon, Isaias P. Dicdican and Ramon Bato Jr.
At a news briefing, presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda was asked if Leonen, a former University of the Philippines law dean and a member of the government panel that negotiated the framework agreement with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), had the edge over the other nominees.
Lacierda explained that as standard operating procedure in the appointments process, the President would have to meet with the nominees who would all be on equal footing.
“That negotiation for peace with the MILF is another matter. We’re now dealing with his views, for instance, a nominee’s views on the judiciary. So that’s something that the President has not discussed with Leonen. So he will give an even-steven chance to all the nominees.”
Lacierda expressed hope that Leonen would continue to oversee the peace process.
“Certainly, we would like the panel that forged the framework agreement to be there,” he said. “But then, we also recognize that nobody’s indispensable in the government. So it’s up to the President whether he has made a decision on who is going to be the next associate justice.”