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JBC lets Aquino name De Lima replacement in selection body

Justice Secretary Leila de Lima.

The Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) on Monday granted Malacañang’s request to allow President Bengino Aquino to name a replacement for Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, who recused herself as an ex-officio member of the council after accepting her nomination for the post of Chief Justice.

In a letter to the JBC dated July 13, the Chief Executive, through Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa, said that the decision of De Lima to inhibit herself from the proceedings had given rise to a situation in which the executive branch was left without an official voice in the JBC.

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Ochoa argued: “The nomination of Secretary of Justice Leila M. De Lima and her acceptance of this nomination similarly leaves the council with no one to represent the President in the selection process for the next Chief Justice.

“The President requests the gracious consent and kind consideration of the council in his designation of a substitute for Secretary De Lima as his excellency’s representative in the council in the selection of the next Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.”

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Sole alter ego

The executive secretary explained that De Lima was the “sole alter ego of the President” and her absence would do away with the equal representation of the three branches of government in the JBC’s deliberations.

The granting of Malacañang’s request by the JBC, which is mandated by the Constitution to vet applicants to top judicial offices, has given the President an opportunity to further tighten his control of the composition of the council.

Three of the JBC’s regular members—Jose Mejia, Ma. Milagros Fernan-Cayosa and retired Court of Appeals Associate Justice Aurora Lagman—are appointees of Mr. Aquino.

The two congressional representatives in the JBC, Senator Francis “Chiz” Escudero and Iloilo Representative Niel Tupas Jr., are both known allies of the President.

Nothing wrong

Mejia said JBC members have agreed “in principle” to allow the appointment of a representative of the Executive Department in lieu of De Lima.

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Mejia said they were initially looking at “an undersecretary who is a lawyer” or “someone also from the Department of Justice” as minimum qualification for De Lima’s substitute.

While they do not see anything wrong with the decision granting Malacañang’s request, Mejia said he could not recall in history of the JBC if a similar substitution was made.

During the time when then Justice Secretary Agnes Devanadera was nominated for the position of Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, Malacañang has not requested a substitute for Devanadera’s post at the JBC.

Antonio Carpio

Speaking with reporters on Monday, Escudero said the JBC also agreed to let Associate Justice Diosdado Peralta preside over the body’s screening process of acting Chief Justice Antonio Carpio.

Like De Lima, Carpio inhibited himself from the JBC proceedings when he decided to be a candidate for the successor of ousted Chief Justice Renato Corona.

Escudero said, “We thought the JBC might bog down if we object and bring the issue to the Supreme Court. The standing resolution was (to allow Peralta) unless there’s another resolution (of the court which) says that it’s illegal.

Originally posted: 6:10 pm | Monday, July 16th, 2012

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TAGS: Benigno Aquino, Chief Justice search, Government, JBC, Judiciary, Leila de Lima, Nation, News, Supreme Court
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