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No comment, JBC says on legality of its officials

By: - Reporter / @T2TupasINQ
/ 06:27 PM July 09, 2012

MANILA, Philippines—The Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) has left it to the Supreme Court to determine if their composition of 8 members is legal or a violation of the 1987 Constitution.

Based on a 13-page comment, the JBC, through retired Supreme Court Associate Justice Regino Hermosisima said he opted not to offer an opinion on the legality of the JBC composition.

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“Indeed, there have been attempts by the respondent JBC itself to resolve the issue of how many officials must represent Congress in the JBC. All attempts have failed. [The JBC] defers to the wise discretion of the Honorable Court on the matter,” the council said.

Under the Constitution, the JBC is constitutionally mandated to screen applicants 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.

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Former Solicitor General Francisco Chavez, in his petition asked the high court to issue a temporary restraining order to stop the JBC from further functioning.

Chavez said the current JBC composition violates the 1987 Constitution with two representatives from Congress, namely: Sen. Francis Escudero (chairman, Senate Committee on Justice) and Iloilo Rep. Niel Tupas, Jr. (chairman, House of Representatives Justice Committee).

Chavez insists the composition of the JBC, the body tasked to screen applicants and nominees for judicial posts and the post of Ombudsman and Deputy Ombudsmen, should only be 7, not 8.

He stressed that the phrase “a representative of the Congress” used by the Constitution in Sec. 8, Art. VIII is “all too clear” to mean only one JBC member should come from the legislature.

“The said JBC is now in the process of preparing the final list of possible appointee for the position of Chief Justice. However, if the composition of constitutional body that screens their appointment is illegal and unconstitutional—then the appointment of the Chief Justice will be tainted with unconstitutionality,” Chavez said in his petition.

“This will affect not only the Supreme Court but the entire judicial system, which will definitely be in a state of utter chaos,” Chavez added.

Currently, the JBC is composed of Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio (in place of the Chief Justice), Justice Sec. Leila De Lima, Escudero, Tupas, Justice Regino Hermosisima (representing retired justices of the Supreme Court), retired Court of Appeals Justice Aurora Lagman (private sector), Atty. Milagros Fernan-Cayosa (Integrated Bar of the Philippines), Atty. Jose Mejia (academe), SC Associate Justice Presbitero Velasco, Jr. (consultant), SC Associate Justice Teresita Leonardo-De Castro (consultant), and SC Court Administrator Jose Midas Marquez (consultant).

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Constitutionalist Fr. Joaquin Bernas last week said that following the provision of the Constitution, the JBC members should be composed of seven only with one representative from Congress. But he admitted that it has been a practice that there are two representatives from Congress who have half a vote each or take turns in voting.

But recent JBC members from Congress have one vote each as confirmed by Tupas.

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