CJ applicants asked to submit bank waivers

(UPDATED) The Judicial and Bar Council sets the deadline for application on June 18

SEARCH BEGINS. The Judicial and Bar Council convenes at the Supreme Court to begin the search for a new chief justice. Photo by Matthew James Balicudiong

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – The Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) on Monday, June 4, decided to include bank waivers in its requirements for applicants to the position of chief justice.

This was disclosed to reporters by Sen Francis Escudero, a member of the JBC, after the first meeting of the council. Escudero said the applicants from government will also be asked to submit copies of all their Statements of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth (SALN) from the time they joined the bureaucracy.

It was Escudero who proposed the new requirement, which the council adopted.

Hiniling ko na idagdag ng JBC ang isang requirement na ma-execute ng waiver ng secrecy of bank deposits at FCDU law ang sinumang nais mag-apply para sa punong mahistrado pabor sa JBC para tignan at ikumpara ng JBC ang nilalaman ng kanyang bank account at kanyang SALN na fi-fill up.” (I proposed that the JBC include in its requirements a waiver that would allow the disclosure of bank deposits of all applicants so that the JBC can look into these and compare with their SALNs.)

Escudero expressed hope that with this new requirement, the list of applicants to the top judiciary post will be shorter.

Another JBC member, however, clarified that only the JBC could use the bank waivers to be issued. Ma Milagros Fernan-Cayosa, who sits as a representative of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, said it is up to the applicants or nominees “if they want to (extend) the waiver to the public.” 

The deadline for applications to the post is June 18, the JBC said.

Carpio, De Lima inhibit

The 8-member JBC, which is supposed to include the Chief Justice, screens and nominates aspirants to the judiciary and the Office of the Ombudsman.

The council met Monday after the impeachment court on May 29 declared Renato Corona guilty of betrayal of public trust and culpable violation of the Constitution, and removed him from office.

Acting Chief Justice Antonio Carpio inhibited from the proceedings. Carpio passed on the responsibility of presiding over the meetings to Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, who told reporters she declined “in the same manner that Acting Chief Justice Carpio was also on the side of prudence and delicadeza.”

Carpio, being the most senior justice, automatically becomes a nominee to the post, along with other senior justices. De Lima was also mentioned as a possible nominee, but told reporters before the meeting that she was not interested.

“One thing is sure, I’m not going to apply. If somebody or some group will nominate me, then I’ll think about it. I’ll decide, I’ll consult whomever I would want to consult, especially my father. And of course I have to discuss that with the President,” De Lima said.

Retired SC Justice Regino Hermosisima, a JBC member, was chosen as the presiding officer of the council.

The current JBC members include the following: 

  • Secretary Leila de Lima (Department of Justice)

  • Sen Francis “Chiz” Escudero (Senate)

  • Iloilo Rep Niel Tupas (House of Representatives)

  • Ma Milagros Fernan-Cayosa (Integrated Bar of the Philippines)

  • Jose Mejia (academe)

  • Retired Court of Appeals Justice Aurora Lagman (private sector)

  • Retired SC Justice Regino Hermosisima

 

MEMBERS ARRIVE. JBC member Aurora Lagman, a former Court of Appeals justice, says the council will take up administrative matters on choosing a new chief justice. Photo by Matthew James Balicudiong

Henares as nominee?

Tupas said it is “too premature” to float the names of former impeachment witnesses, like De Lima and Bureau of Internal Revenue Secretary Kim Henares, for the position of chief justice. Nevertheless, he said their “independence” should be tested.

“To me, integrity and independence should really count,” Tupas said.

Henares expressed a degree of openness to the possibility. “Let’s cross the bridge when we get there,” she said. (More in the story, “PNoy’s CJ choice: Will it be Henares or De Lima?”)

When asked again by Senate reporters on Monday, June 4, Henares said:  “In the first place, the position has not been advertised yet,” she told reporters on Monday. “I think it’s premature to even talk about it at this point in time.”

“I’ll think about it when it’s there, if it gets there.” Henares added that she still has a lot of work to do at the BIR.

Need for transparency

From complete secrecy in the past, the JBC has now made public its voting tally on judiciary or Ombudsman nominations. The council, however, keeps undisclosed its bases for its choices.

WHY CARPIO? Iloilo Rep Niel Tupas Jr suggests the most senior JBC member, instead of Carpio, to preside over the council's proceedings. Photo by Matthew James Balicudiong

SC watchers like Vince Lazatin, who belongs to the watchdog Supreme Court Appointments Watch, demand greater transparency from the JBC. (Read: Make screening for next CJ transparent.)

In connection to calls for transparency, the JBC’s Cayosa said the panel interviews for the position of chief justice would be open to the public, including the media. The only prohibition, she said, is with live telecasts of the proceedings. “You have to remember that this is the judiciary, and (for) any potential applicant, their reputation can be unnecessarly destroyed,” she explained.

Other court observers also note that the JBC’s composition, with 4 regular members nominated by the President, makes it prone to political pressure. (Read: Eyes on the JBC.) 

Meanwhile, President Benigno Aquino III has expressed openness to appoint an SC outsider as Chief Justice, defying tradition. “(What’s important is the) efficiency of the institution and serving and addressing our people’s needs,” Aquino told reporters.

The President is expected to appoint a new chief justice within 90 days after Corona was convicted. – Rappler.com

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