MANILA, Philippines -- In an effort to ensure the fair and honest selection of the seven Supreme Court justices next year, legal luminaries, lawyers? organizations, and law schools have launched a coalition to guard the process.
And immediately after it was launched Monday, the ?Bantay Korte Suprema? (Watch the Supreme Court) is now looking into supposed lobbying by various groups for and against a prospective candidate, Senator Franis Panglinan, a member of the Judicial and Bar Council said.
"There are already calls, asking for an audience with me about a certain candidate. They tell me this candidate is a friend but I simply tell them that there is a process that should be followed," Pangilinan said.
The JBC was created by the 1987 Constitution and tasked to screen candidates to the Judiciary and the Office of the Ombudsman.
It narrows down the list of candidates and sends the shortlist to the President to choose.
"Meron din mga kontra, hindi lang pabor hindi ko masasabing naninira, nagbibigay ng impormasyon [There are those who are against, merely opposed, not exactly critical, giving information]. We welcome all of it whether for or against but we only make the shortlist. It is the President who ultimately decides," Pangilinan said.
Former Senate President Jovito Salonga said he received information that Malacañang was gearing to appoint allies to the Supreme Court.
Salonga, together with Pangilinan said, the Bantay Korte Suprema would not endorse any aspirant but would make public all information for or against each and every candidate.
Meanwhile, former Chief Justice Artemio Panganiban said the Supreme Court with majority of Arroyo-appointees could lead to eventual Charter change.
Panganiban said sensitive issues could again go up to the Supreme Court by 2009 where President Arroyo would appoint majority of the retiring justices.
"We don't want a justice that can be dictated or partisan," Panganiban said.
Panganiban echoed the call of the Supreme Court Appointments Watch (SCAW) to make transparent the voting of the members of the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC).
Some of the members of the Bantay Korte Suprema are Pangilinan, Salonga, the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, and the Philippine Bar Association.
The JBC shortlist is sent to the President and the votes of the members are kept confidential.
Out of the 15 Supreme Court Justices, only Chief Justice Reynato Puno, Associate Justices Consuelo Ynares-Santiago, and Leonardo Quisumbing are the non-Arroyo appointees.
Next year, seven justices will retire including Quisumbing and Santiago.