3 Chief Justice aspirants undergo SC grilling
MANILA, Philippines–Search warrant, statement of assets liabilities, and net worth (SALN) highlighted the interviews for the three Supreme Court justices aspiring to be the next Chief Justice.
Only three names are vying for the position of Chief Justice that will become vacant upon the early retirement of Chief Justice Diosdado Peralta and they are Senior Associate Justice Estela Perlas-Bernabe, Associate Justices Alexander Gesmundo and Ramon Paul Hernando.
Of the three, Bernabe is the most senior while Gesmundo is number four and Hernando is number five most senior justice. Associate Justices Marvic Leonen and Alfredo Benjamin Caguioa who are numbers two and three most senior justices have declined the automatic nomination.
On search warrants
Chief Justice Diosdado Peralta asked Gesmundo where should a judge rely in granting an application for search warrants–affidavit of the applicant or questions propounded during searching questions as required by the Constitution.
Gesmundo, who has been active in introducing and crafting amendments to court rules said the rules of court is very clear on this.
“The Constitution says no search warrant or warrant of arrest shall be issued except upon probable cause determined by a judge after conducting a searching inquiry. He cannot solely rely on the affidavits of the complainants and the witnesses they produced because that is a violation of the Constitution as well as the Rules on Criminal Procedure,” he said.
Last Sunday, nine local activists were killed in the implementation of search warrants issued by Manila Courts. Lawyers denounced the killings and calling the high court to review the warrants issued by both the Manila and Quezon City Courts.
On the other hand, both the Mandaluyong and the Bacolod Regional Trial Courts granted the motions to quash the search warrants issued by the Quezon City RTC that were used leading to the arrest and detention of a lady journalist and local activists.
The Mandaluyong Court said testimonies of the police officers and its informant are inconsistent. It ordered the release of journalist Lady Ann Salem and trade unionist Rodrigo Esparago.
On the other hand, the Bacolod Court said there was “an infringement of the constitutional requirement” when the search warrants were issued. It pointed out that all the evidence obtained through the void search warrant is inadmissible.
Like Gesmundo, Hernando said, “judges would only be minded to issue search warrants if on the basis of probable cause, he finds that there is a need for issuing it.”
However, Hernando said judges should not be blamed if something went wrong in the process of implementing the search warrant.
Hernando does believe there are irregularities in the process of issuing search warrants.
“There is nothing wrong there as long as the judge has really been convinced by the quantum of evidence needed to issue a search warrant. I think the judge should not be blamed for that but it’s a different thing when it comes to the implementation of the search warrant,” Hernando said also agreeing to retired Supreme Court Associate Justice Jose Catral Mendoza that that issue is “beyond the judiciary.”
On Statement of Assets, Liabilities, and Networth
Bernabe and Gesmundo believed that there is nothing wrong with publishing their SALN.
“I have really nothing to hide,” Bernabe said. However, she is concerned that there are some people who tend to “weaponize” the SALN.
She said some people “find ways and means to really destroy the reputation of a justice.”
Bernabe said a summary of the SALN will do.
Gesmundo, on the other hand, said “transparency is the rule. I don’t think there should be any objection on that.”
He said people can have access to a justice’s SALN. However, he pointed out that the purpose for obtaining the SALN should also be considered. “It must be legitimate.”
Last year, the high court denied the request for access to the SALN of Associate Justice Marvic Leonen to initiate a quo warranto petition similar to the move that led to the ouster of former chief justice Maria Lourdes Sereno.
The names will no longer be narrowed down as the JBC is required to submit a minimum of three names to President Rodrigo Duterte to make the final choice.
The President has 90 days from the vacancy or specifically from March 27 to decide.
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