SC: Only 1 member of Congress should be at JBC


The Supreme Court building in Manila. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines – The Supreme Court stood pat on its earlier ruling that only one member of Congress should be at the  Judicial and Bar Council.

Voting 9-3-3, the high court, in dismissing the appeal filed by Congress, maintained that the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) should only have 7 instead of 8 members.

The JBC is constitutionally mandated to screen aspirants for the Judiciary and the Office of the Ombudsman. Then, they submit a short list of nominees to the President who then will make the appointment.

In its July 2012 ruling, the high court said “to allow the Legislature to have more quantitive influence in the JBC by having more than one voice speak, whether with one full vote or one-half a vote each, would, as one former congressman and member of the JBC put it, ‘negate the principle of equality among the three branches of government which is enshrined in the Constitution.”

Senator Francis Escudero and Iloilo Representative Niel Tupas Jr. are both members of the JBC representing Congress.

The case stemmed when former Solicitor General Francisco Chavez questioned the JBCcomposition saying Section 8 (1) of Article VIII of the Constitution states that “a member of Congress” should represent the JBC.

The 9 justices who voted to dismiss Congress’ appeal were Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, Teresita Leonardo-De Castro, Diosdado Peralta, Lucas Bersamin, MartinVillarama, Jose Perez, Jose Mendoza, Bienvenido Reyes and Estela Perlas-Bernabe,

Those who dissented were Associate Justices Roberto Abad, Marvic Leonen and Mariano Del Castillo.

Meanwhile, Chief Justices Maria Lourdes Sereno, Associate Justices Presbitero Velasco and Arturo Brion inhibited from the case.

The Court held that the use of the singular letter “a” preceding “representative of Congress” in Section 8(1), Article VIII of the 1987 Constitution is unequivocal and leaves no room for any other construction. The word “Congress” is used in its generic sense. Considering the language of the subject constitutional provision is clear and unambiguous, there is no need to resort to extrinsic aids such as the records of the Constitutional Commission.

The Court noted that the Framers of the Constitution intended to create a JBC as an innovative solution in response to the public clamor in favor of eliminating politics in the appointment of members of the Judiciary. To ensure judicial independence, they adopted a holistic approach and hoped that, in creating a JBC, the private sector and the three branches of government would have an active role and equal voice in the selection of the members of the Judiciary. “ declared the Court.

The Court also held that the JBC’s seven-member composition “serves a practical purpose, that is, to provide a solution should there be a stalemate in voting.”

It further held that under the doctrine of operative facts where actions prior to the declaration of unconstitutionality are legally recognized as a matter of equity and fair play, all JBC’s prior official acts are valid.

The Court ruled that it is not in a position to determine as to who should remain as sole representative of Congress in the JBC and that such is best left to the determination of Congress.

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  • Horst Manure

    You have a judiciary that is worse than Vietnam and a couple of South African countries and slightly better than Indonesia and they want to start laying down the law , what a joke they need to clean up their own image first with a good stiff brush and lots of soap followed antiseptic.

    The judiciary is about as function as an ash tray on a motor bike and is stopping the country from progressing and getting out of poverty.
    The only bar they should be worried about is the one in a cell door.

  • kilabot

    now what about releasing the psycho test results of sc candidates;
    and the saln and bank waivers.

    • Weder-Weder Lang

      The unofficial ruling on releasing psycho test: Fire the psychologists.

      The unofficial ruling on SALN & bank waivers: Don’t do it, you’ll end up like Renato.

  • Maldi2

    This is an excellent land mark decision. No to Congress monopoly!

    • leomar101

      That case of tupak tupaz insisting on the 2 representatives from legislative during the selection of serana was a special case. It was aquino’s order that serana should be his choice whatever the costs. Sensing that there might be some problem on the process, tupak make sure that when voting comes, aquino’s choice will prevail through majority vote from JBC. And it was perfect game, serana became CJ inspite of her failed psycho test kasi nagbotohan sila. hahaha. plain and simple as that. hahaha. Asan na ang kaso ni tupak and his father? wala na tapos na yon.

      • Felix Alcantara

        chief justice na kulang sa karanasan just like her protector.

  • Mang Teban

    Congress has two chambers but the Supreme Court’s decision on the composition of the JBC matches with the original intent of the law – that there should be an odd number of jurors in screening candidates for any judicial position. Otherwise, an even number can end up in a tie and time is wasted to break this tie. The JBC, I suppose, has no rules for inhibiting oneself and so 7 votes will always end up with a majority.

    It was ridiculous for Congress to insist vote-sharing to give way for the Senate and the Lower House to have one-half vote each just to make a single vote and make a loophole of the law – one JBC member, one vote.

    Finally, there is order in the JBC. However, with our current president who has a preconceived choice for appointing people to the judiciary, SC and lower courts, the role of the JBC becomes merely ministerial and “just complying with tradition.” It might be necessary to amend the law and pass on the decision of appointing in the Judiciary to an independent council and not to the president who usually appoints judges and justices for political reasons and purposes. This is worth looking at if we wish to clean this government of political patronage and political favors.

  • honest man

    It seems that everything in this country, the supreme court has to do with it. At one time time, they will run the aairs of this country.

    • Kilabot ng mga Balahibo

      not really.

      think of it as too many people having different opinions, and that their passion runs deep.

      someone has to answer questions of law when two people have colliding opinions.

  • Line Of Flight

    this was a judicially sound decision. the constitution’s wording is plain and unambiguous. congress must now pass a law to determine how they will decide who represents Congress on this panel — like its done in every other country with these kinds of bodies. it’s not rocket science. if only the supreme court could exercise its judicial power this way in all cases.

  • regd

    I’m guessing the dissenting justices math prowess are defective.

  • Felix Alcantara

    The SC is absolutely correct. The letter “a” as an adjective inarguably denotes a single unit of measurement.

  • Hey_Dudes

    Mr & Ms. Supreme Court justices. Do you mind ruling how many pokpoks can ompok make kalabog?

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