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Petition stopping JBC from searching Chief Justice junked

By: - Reporter / @T2TupasINQ
/ 05:17 PM July 05, 2012

The Supreme Court building in Manila. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines—The Supreme Court dismissed a petition seeking to stop the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) from proceeding with its search for a new Chief Justice.

In a resolution dated July 3 but was released to the media Thursday, the high court sees no reason to stop the JBC’s search for the next Chief Justice.

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Under the Constitution, the JBC is constitutionally mandated to screen applicants to the judiciary and the Office of the Ombudsman.

Petitioner Famela R. Dulay in her petition said the President cannot appoint the Chief Justice and the JBC cannot be headed by a retired Associate Justice of the Supreme Court.

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Citing Article VIII Section 9, Dulay said the Constitution stated that “the members of the Supreme Court and judges of the lower courts shall be appointed by the President from a list of at least three nominees prepared by the JBC for every vacancy…” She argued that the said provision did not include the Chief Justice.

But the high court said that the phrase “members of the Supreme Court” was used without distinction.

“In all of these provisions, the phrase “members of the Supreme Court” was repeatedly used to refer not only to the Associate Justices of the Supreme Court but includes the Chief Justice. Thus, in Section 9 of Article 8 on the appointment of Justices and Judges, the phrase “members of the Supreme Court” clearly refers to the 15 justices of the Court—one Chief Justice and 14 Associate Justices who are within the appointing power of the President,” the high court explained.

On the other hand, the arguments raised by Dulay that a retired high court justice cannot head the JBC cannot be sustained.

It explained in its resolution that “although it would be preferable if the membership of the JBC is complete, the JBC can still operate to perform is mandated task of submitting the list of nominees to the President even if the constitutionally-named ex-officio chairman does not sit in the JBC.”

The high court said that based on the deliberations of the Constitutional Commission in 1986, the intent of the framers of the Constitution was for the JBC to function even without a complete membership as long as there is a majority present in its deliberations.

“Considering, however, that complete membership in the JBC is preferable and pursuant to its supervisory power over the JBC, this Court should not be deprived of representation,” the high court said noting that its most senior member who is not an applicant for the Chief Justice post will sit as the JBC’s ex-officio chair.

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Associate Justice Diosdado Peralta will sit as ex-officio chair of the JBC in screening the applicants for the Chief Justice post. Peralta, one of the five most senior justice of the high court who was supposedly automatically nominated for the Chief Justice position declined the nomination.

The JBC will start interviewing the 24 applicants for the Chief Justice post on July 24.

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