SC rules another senior justice can replace Carpio in JBC

Carpio inhibited from JBC deliberations after he accepted his nomination for the chief justice post

MANILA, Philippines – The Supreme Court has ruled that another senior justice can replace Acting Chief Justice Antonio Carpio as presiding officer of the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC).

Carpio inhibited from JBC deliberations after he accepted his nomination for the post of chief justice.

In a 7-page ruling on Thursday, July 5, the SC dismissed the petition of a certain Famela Dulay, who insisted only the chief justice can head the JBC, the body mandated by the 1987 Constitution to screen and vet aspirants to the judiciary to the President.

The SC said that the most senior justice who did not accept his nomination for the highest judiciary position can, under Republic Act 296 or the Judiciary Act of 1948, preside over the meetings and participate in the deliberations of the JBC in the absence of its ex-oficio chair.

Section 12 of RA 296 states that “in case of vacancy in the office of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, or of his inability to perform the duties and powers of his office, they shall devolve upon the Associate Justice who is first in precedence, until such disability is removed, or another Chief Justice is appointed and duly qualified. This provision shall apply to every Associate Justice who succeeds to the office of the Chief Justice.”

Among the 5 senior SC justices, only Justice Diosdado Peralta declined his chief justice nomination.

Up until early this week, the JBC was in a dilemma on how to resolve this issue.

Aside from Carpio, another JBC member, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, inhibited from the JBC proceedings because she is also a contender for the chief justice post.

This leaves the originally 8-member body with only 6 members — Iloilo Rep Niel Tupas, Sen Francis Escudero, retired Court of Appeals Justice Aurora Lagman, retired SC Justice Regino Hermosisima, lawyer Jose Mejia and Integrated Bar of the Philippines officer Milagros Fernan-Cayosa.

Tupas, Escudero and Lagman earlier told Rappler there was no need to replace Carpio in the JBC. Escudero said they still had quorum. According to JBC rules, only 5 votes are needed to have a candidate’s name included in a shortlist.

Tupas and Lagman, on the other hand, said having another SC justice sit in the JBC had no legal basis.

Lagman explained: “As per the 1987 Constitution, the chief justice is the ex-oficio chair of JBC. The acting chief justice is now the chair by virtue of Batasang Pambansa 129 (the Judiciary Reorganization Act). Thus, I don’t see any legal basis for an associate justice to participate in the JBC.”

‘President can appoint’

The SC, in the same ruling, also upheld the President’s power to appoint the next chief justice. Dulay said in her petition that the president cannot name the chief justice because the Constitution says he can only appoint “members of the Supreme Court.”

The SC said, however, that the law does not distinguish between an associate justice and chief justice.

“A plain reading of the constitutional provisions on the Judicial Department in Article VIII of the 1987 Constitution clearly shows that the phrase ‘Members of the Supreme Court’ and the words ‘Members’ and ‘Member’ are repeatedly used to refer to the Justices of the Supreme Court without distinction whether he be the Chief Justice or any of the Associate Justices or all fifteen Justices,” ruled the court. –

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