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JBC: ok to air live interviews for CJ post

JBC also extends application process until July 2

MANILA, Philippines – The public can now watch the aspirants for the post of chief justice being grilled on television as the Judicial and Bar Council allowed the live coverage of their interviews on Monday, June 18. 

In an unprecedented move, the JBC — the body that vets nominees to the judiciary for appointment by the president — decided to have the public interviews aired live. Rep. Niel Tupas, one of the body’s 8 members, told Rappler that they reached the said decision following several requests.

“We wanted to be liberal and transparent on the selection process,” he said.

Jose Mejia, the representative of the academe in the JBC, said they received formal requests from former JBC member Sen Francis Pangilinan and the Supreme Court Appointments Watch, a coalition of civil society groups, to have the interviews aired live.

The public interviews are meant for aspirants to articulate their judicial philosophy and answer complaints against them. 

If the interviews are aired live, the public will know if anything questionable about the applicants’ qualifications and character have been raised. “It will raise pressure on the JBC. They would have to justify why they are voting for candidates whose competence or independence is under question,” Vincent Lazatin of SCAW told Rappler in a previous interview.

Rules for coverage

The JBC unanimously agreed to delete a provision in its rules barring live coverage of the public interviews. Sec. 5 of Rule No. JBC-10 state the “…The proceedings shall be in writing. Cameras and tape recorders, however, [are]not to be allowed inside the room.  No live TV and radio coverage of the proceedings shall be permitted.”

The next step for the JBC is to specify the rules for the live coverage. “There will be guidelines to ensure the interviews will proceed smoothly,” Mejia said. 

There had been calls for more transparency in the selection process of the JBC following the removal of Chief Justice Renato Corona on May 29. The Senate, sitting as an impeachment court, convicted Corona for culpable violation of the 1987 Constitution and betrayal of public trust for failing to declare P183 million in peso and dollar bank deposits.

Another JBC member,  lawyer Milagros Fernan-Cayosa from the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, said the JBC will still have to discuss if they will also allow the live coverage of their voting and deliberations. She said the JBC executive committee, composed of the 4 regular members — Cayosa, Mejia, retired Justice Regino Hermosisima and retired Court of Appeals Justice Aurora Lagman — will have a separate meeting on the issue and submit their recommendations to the JBC en banc.

The JBC’s other members are Tupas and Sen Francis Escudero and Justice Secretary Leila de Lima. The body is chaired by acting chief justice Antonio Capio. Both De Lima and Carpio have inhibited from the deliberations following their nomination to the post, however. 

Extended

The JBC also extended the application and nomination period to July 2. Mejia said a certain Atty Hans Santos filed a formal request for the extenstion.

There are 32 nominees and applicants to the post. Mejia said while two are not qualified because they did not meet the qualifications, they have yet to remove their names from the list pending the finalization of the list of nominees and applicants. Retired CA Justice Hilarion Aquino and teacher-nurse Jocelyn Esquivel did not meet the qualifications — Aquino is already 80 years old (the retirement age is 70) while Esquivel is not a lawyer.

Meanwhile, two nominees — former energy secretary Raphael ‘Popo’ Lotilla and former assistant provincial prosecutor Marianito Sasodoncillo have declined their nominations.

The latest nominee is SC Justice Estela Perlas-Bernabe, the most junior SC magistrate. She was recommended by lawyer Gregorio Batiller, one of the private lawyers who assisted the prosecution in Corona’s impeachment trial. Bernabe was appointed to the high court in 2011. If appointed, the 60-year-old magistrate will serve as chief justice for 10 years. 

There are now 9 SC justices nominated to the post. The five most senior — Carpio and Associate Justices Arturo Brion, Teresita Leonardo-de Castro, Diosdado Peralta, and Presbitero Velasco Jr — are automatically nominated. Aside from Bernabe, Justices Lourdes Sereno, Roberto Abad and Jose Perez have also been nominated. Among the 9, Abad — who was appointed only in 2009 — is the oldest. He will retire in 2014 upon reaching the mandatory retirement age of 70. 

With the extension of the application and nomination period, the JBC will vote on its shortlist on July 30 instead of July 16. The JBC has to include at least 3 nominees in its shortlist.

President Benigno Aquino III has 90 days from the date of the vacancy to name the next chief justice. – Rappler.com


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