Chavez dares Escudero, Tupas to argue JBC case before high court
MANILA, Philippines – Former Solicitor General Francisco Chavez challenged Senator Francis Escudero and Iloilo Representative Niel Tupas on Saturday to personally defend before the Supreme Court their membership in the Judicial and Bar Council.
Chavez, who has asked the tribunal to set oral arguments on his petition questioning the presence of two representatives from Congress on the JBC, said the Office of the Solicitor General cannot represent Escudero and Tupas.
“I am inviting them to argue their own cases in court. They’re supposed to be lawyers. They should refrain from arguing their case in the media and they should argue their cases personally before the Supreme Court,” Chavez said in an interview.
He said the OSG could not take up the cudgels for Escudero and Tupas because “under the Administrative Code of 1987, the Solicitor General can represent only government offices within the Executive Department.”
“By [representing Escudero and Tupas], the Solicitor General is engaging in unlawful representation. The Senate and the House have their own legal departments. They should be represented by their own departments,” Chavez said.
“The moment the SolGen does that, the two houses become his clients. In the course of time, he will be handling a case involving a conflict between the Executive and Legislative, he would then have a conflict of interest because Congress has become his client,” Chavez added.
Chavez argued that Section 8, Article VIII of the 1987 Constitution clearly states that the JBC should be composed of only seven members, with just one member representing Congress.
He said that the JBC should be stopped from holding proceedings if it continued to have eight members and that Escudero and Tupas should be prohibited from participating in the body’s meetings until the issue was settled.
In a comment filed on July 11 by the OSG on behalf of Tupas and Escudero, the two lawmakers said the Supreme Court could not stop the JBC from fulfilling its constitutional duty to screen the nominees for chief justice.
The lawmakers also wondered why Chavez was questioning the JBC composition only now since he was aware the council had eight members since 1994.
“The only reason I brought it now is that I waited for way too long for somebody to question it and nobody did,” Chavez said. “And now they’re questioning my motive. That’s the trouble, we can’t seem to resolve issues without assigning motive. But there is no prescription to a continuing violation of the Constitution. It’s like a multi-headed hydra that should be slain on sight every time it shows any of its ugly heads.”
Escudero and Tupas said that Congress was a bicameral legislature and references to it in the Constitution should pertain to both Senate and the House of Representatives.
They added that members of the 1986 Constitutional Commission initially wanted a unicameral legislature but changed its mind and forgot to alter references to a single chamber in the provision on the composition of the JBC.
“To me, that is anachronistic nonsense. Why should we apply the present Constitution based on the failed intentions and inadvertence of the framers?” Chavez said.
“We cannot apply the Constitution on what could have been, what should have been, or what would have been,” he added.
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