Guevarra declines SC nomination: ‘Still in love with DOJ’

Lian Buan

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Guevarra declines SC nomination: ‘Still in love with DOJ’
'I very much want to join the judiciary in some future time, but I just want to make sure that I'm able to do something more for the DOJ,' says Guevarra

MANILA, Philippines – Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra will be staying put in the Department of Justice (DOJ), at least for now, after turning down a nomination to a vacancy in the Supreme Court bench.

“Justice Victorino, thank you for nominating me, but I’m still in love with the DOJ,” Guevarra said Monday morning, November 25, in a speech before prosecutors at a regional conference in Manila.

Monday, 4:30 pm, is the deadline to submit applications – or to accept or decline nominations – to the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC).

Guevarra was nominated by retired Sandiganbayan justice Raoul Victorino.

“Do you know the feeling of someone who has always desired a wonderful person to be his or her spouse in the future? But somewhere along the way, he bumps into someone else whom he likes and desires?” Guevarra said in his speech, alluding to his previous aspirations to be a justice of the Supreme Court.

“So in 2016, I really considered applying to the Supreme Court as one of my legal options, it’s one of my career options, but circumstances threw me in Padre Faura, but not that part of Padre Faura, not near Taft Avenue, but Padre Faura near Robinsons, and I found out it was good, it was exciting,” Guevarra added.

The next vacancy would be in May 2020, when Associate Justice Andres Reyes Jr retires, and in September 2020, when Associate Justice Jose Reyes Jr retires.

Guevarra said he is “certainly not” closing his doors to the possibility of applying to the Supreme Court.

“I very much want to join the judiciary in some future time, but I just want to make sure that I’m able to do something more for the DOJ before i can even think of transfering to the judiciary,” said Guevarra.

As justice chief

Guevarra, who is also a political appointee of former president Benigno Noynoy Aquino III, gets fair reviews from the opposition every now and again, with the latest nod coming from former justice secretary Senator Franklin Drilon who said, “Let me place on record my respect for the Secretary of Justice.”

As President Rodrigo Duterte’s alter ego, Guevarra’s DOJ has held the line for this administration, including the earnest efforts to jail opposition senator Antonio Trillanes IV in October 2018.

In the latest conundrum involving the arrest of vape users with neither a court order nor a governing law, Guevarra has had to make justifications for the President, vaguely answering specific legal questions.

Guevarra said his focus for now is eradicating the backlog in their dockets, which will be helped by filling vacancies in the National Prosecution Service.

“I need to put some order in our correctional system, the agencies under the DOJ such as the BuCor, the Board of Pardons and Parole, etc. Number 4, the continuing modernization of the National Bureau of Investigation and the Bureau of Immigration,” he said.

“I do not expect that I will be able to complete all of these in my tenure with the DOJ, but I hope I’ll be able to make a dent and do something to set the progress in motion,” Guevarra said.

Guevarra was nominated to the vacancy created when Chief Justice Diosdado Peralta was appointed top magistrate. There are two other vacancies that are yet to be filled, but whose application process is done – one for the vacancy of retired associate justice Francis Jardeleza and the other, for retired senior associate justice Antonio Carpio.

Guevarra is 65 years old, which leaves him only 5 years to serve in the Supreme Court bench should he choose to apply, and if he is ever appointed. –

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Lian Buan

Lian Buan is a senior investigative reporter, and minder of Rappler's justice, human rights and crime cluster.