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Search for Chief Justice getting ‘ridiculous’

With more than 50 aspirants, the search for the next Chief Justice has become “ridiculous,” said Sen. Joker Arroyo on Friday.

Why were all these nominees gunning for the top Supreme Court post without first applying for the lower position of associate justice, said Arroyo.

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“This bid to be Chief Justice is getting to be ridiculous,” he told the Inquirer in a phone interview. “Imagine 50 (nominees) already? Every Tom, Dick and Harry wants to be Chief Justice.”

Arroyo said the “usual route” to the position of Chief Justice was that of an associate justice.

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“Time was when a lawyer’s dream was to be a justice of the high court where he can shine with the decisions he pens. He need not be chief justice to shine,” he added. “Now, aspirants want to pole vault, leap frog to the chief justiceship without starting as an associate justice.”

Arroyo said the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) should “seriously reconsider this unfortunate development,” considering that more than 50 people have now been nominated to replace ousted Chief Justice Renato Corona.

The JBC, which is tasked to draw up a list of candidates to be submitted to the President, has also allowed live media coverage of the selection process.

“There are over 50 aspirants for the position of Chief Justice. This has never happened before and the JBC consciously or unconsciously abets this,” Arroyo said.

“While it democratizes the system, it, however, also devalues the position of Chief Justice.”

The latest nominee as of Friday was Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa, who was nominated by a certain Egay Bigay. (Ochoa declined the nomination late Friday).

On Friday, two Supreme Court justices, Bienvenido Reyes and Jose Mendoza, joined fellow magistrates Estela Perlas Bernabe and Mariano del Castillo in declining nominations for chief justice. “I defer to more senior colleagues of mine,” Reyes said in a letter to the JBC.

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The five most senior justices are automatic nominates: Acting Chief Justice Antonio Carpio, and justices Presbitero Velasco Jr., Teresita Leonardo De Castro, Diosdado Peralta and Arturo Brion.

Another criticism of the JBC concerns its composition. Former solicitor general Frank Chavez on Friday asked the JBC, why it has eight members, which, he said, was contrary to a provision in the 1987 Constitution.

In a letter to the JBC, Chavez, one of the nominees to the position of the Chief Justice whom the body is tasked to screen, said Section 8 (1), Article VIII of the Charter clearly states that there should only be one representative of Congress in the JBC.

At the moment the JBC includes two legislators—one from the Senate (Sen. Francis Escudero) and one from the House of Representatives (Iloilo Rep. Niel Tupas Jr.).

Chavez warned of a “possibility of an impasse” in the actions and decisions of the JBC in case of a 4-4 vote. Asked Chavez: “In such a case, who will be the tie-breaker?”

And since the JBC was “not rightly constituted as required by the Constitution,” Chavez also asked if the body’s acts, recommendations and resolutions were valid, binding and constitutional.

The JBC extended up to July 2 the submission of nominations for Chief Justice. Aquino has until August 26 to make the appointment.

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TAGS: chief justice, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa, Judicial and Bar Council, Renato Corona, Sen. Joker Arroyo
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