Candidates grilled on ‘lack of experience’
MANILA, Philippines—The Judicial and Bar Council on Tuesday questioned the nominees about their “lack of experience” and how it would affect them and the Judiciary if they would be appointed Chief Justice.
Interviewed on Day One of the JBC live interview Tuesday were all “outsider” candidates, namely Presidential Commission on Good Government Chair Andres Bautista, Law Professor Soledad Cagampang De Castro, Justice Secretary Leila De Lima, human rights lawyer Jose Manuel Diokno, Solicitor-General Francis Jardeleza and women’s right advocate Maria Carolina “Katrina” Legarda.
The candidates said they will use their experience in the private sector and their administrative skills in instituting reforms in the courts.
“I have things to bring to the table from the private sector. I will fully adjust myself,” Bautista said.
Bautista said he would use the same method he did in PCGG. “When we came in, the PCGG was ineffective and inadequate. We had to restore credibility and increase transparency,” he said.
Bautista also proposed to impose a term limit for justices of the Supreme Court. Like the Executive and the Legislative branches and other constitutional commissions, he said a justice should only serve for seven years.
If appointed Chief Justice, Bautista will be the youngest high court chief in Philippine history at age 48 and will serve the longest until the mandatory retirement age of 70.
“I am willing to sign a waiver that I will only serve for seven years,” Bautista said.
Cagampang-De Castro, on the other hand said, she came from a family of lawyers and with her experience as Chief Operating Officer of Benguet Mining Corporation for 16 years, she can apply her management and administration skills which is her expertise to her work in the judiciary if ever appointed.
At 67, De Castro is among the oldest of the 22 nominees to the Chief Justice position. The Constitution pegs at 70 the mandatory retirement age for justices.
“I’m still fit to work. It’s never too late to implement something substantial,” De Castro told the JBC panel.
Facing the JBC for two hours, De Lima maintained that she would exercise “judicial independence” from President Benigno Aquino III if appointed as the 24th Chief Justice.
Besides questions regarding her independence, De Lima was grilled on her competence.
“Candidly, do you possess the necessary experience in order to become Chief Justice?” Associate Justice and JBC Presiding Officer Diosdado Peralta asked De Lima to which she replied:
“I have the experience with respect to the knowledge and application of the law.”
The fourth candidate to be interviewed was Diokno, a human rights lawyer. He said he has seen how justice works first hand, thus, he knows what changes are needed.
Diokno’s four-point plan if appointed would be judicial transparency, public accountability, no flip-flopping of final decisions and faster and cheaper justice for the public.
Jardeleza assured the JBC that he will inhibit from cases involving San Miguel Corporation if he would be appointed to the Supreme Court’s top post.
Jardeleza served as general counsel for San Miguel Corporation from January 1996 to June 30, 2010 prior to his appointment as Deputy Ombudsman for Luzon.
San Miguel Corporation has cases pending with the high court due to its ties with the late President Ferdinand Marcos.
“If ever I will be blessed with the Chief Justice position, I will inhibit in all San Miguel cases,” Jardeleza told JBC members.
Jardeleza, on the other hand, said he was not afraid of making decisions contrary to the stand of the Executive Department “as long as the decisions are based on reason and well elaborated.”
The sixth and last to be interviewed for the day was lawyer Legarda who revealed that the judiciary “got scared” after Chief Justice Renato Corona was impeached of an offense which she does not think was impeachable.
“The morale of the courts plunged and many of the judges I work with, the justices in all the training that I do for the Philippine Judicial Academy were like lost sheep,” Legarda told the JBC.
“What they brought up against Corona was not really an impeachable offense. The courts became scared that when they displease a higher authority, they will have problems in the future,” she added.
Corona was impeached after the Senate Impeachment Court found him guilty of culpable violation of the Constitution for not disclosing his dollar accounts in his statement of assets and liabilities.
If ever appointed, Legarda said her first order of the day would be to reorganize the Office of the Court Administrator.
“The problem now is that all judges are being evaluated based on the same standards,” she said.
The Office of the Court Administrator oversees the operation of the lower courts.
Members of the JBC panel present were academic representative Jose V. Mejia; retired SC representative Justice Regino C. Hermosisima, Jr.; Office of the President Undersecretary Michael Frederick D.L. Musngi; SC Justice Diosdado M. Peralta, who chaired the proceedings; Rep. Niel C. Tupas, Jr., who represented Congress via a gentleman’s agreement with Senator Francis G. Escudero due to the recent decision of the Supreme Court that Congress is only entitled to one seat; private sector representative Justice Aurora Santiago-Lagman; and Integrated Bar of the Philippines representative Atty. Maria Milagros Nolasco Fernan-Cayosa.
Musngi takes the place of De Lima who inhibited after she accepted the Chief Justice nomination.
On Wednesday, scheduled for interview are Supreme Court Associate Justices Arturo Brion and Roberto Abad, Rafael Morales, former UP Law Dean Raul Pangalangan, Comelec Commissioner Rene Sarmiento and Manuel Siayngco Jr.
The interview of the candidates will continue up to Friday. After the interview, the JBC will deliberate and determine who should be included in the shortlist.
Mejia told reporters that their target is to submit a shortlist to President Benigno Aquino III by July 30.
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