MANILA, Philippines – Amid the sudden pullout of Congress from the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC), the council said it will still vote on the shortlist for the post of chief justice on Monday, July 30, one of its members said.
“Not a big loss, if you will look at the number, even if we lose one member, we still have a quorum,” Jose Mejia, the academe’s representative to the JBC, told reporters during a break from the ongoing JBC public interviews on Friday, July 27.
The Senate and the House announced Friday they decided to pull out of the JBC. It’s the last day of the public interviews of nominees.
The JBC used to have 8 members, but it was reduced to 7 after the Supreme Court ruled that the council – which screens and vets aspirants for judiciary posts – should only have one representative from Congress.
Congress’ Friday pullout will further reduce the number of JBC members to 6: Associate Justice Diosdado Peralta who’s also the presiding officer, Mejia, Milagros Fernan-Cayosa from the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, Underscretary Michael Frederick Musngi from the Office of the President, retired Court of Appeals Justice Aurora Lagman from the private sector, and retired Supreme Court Justice Regino Hermosisima.
It takes 5 votes to have a name included in the shortlist. After the composition was reduced to 6, however, Mejia said it will now only take 4 votes.
Congress’ surprising move came after they filed a motion for reconsideration on the High Court’s decision on July 24.
Iloilo Rep Niel Tupas even participated – for the first time – in the public interview. He said that he and the representative from Senate – Sen. Francis Escudero – decided that he will sit in the JBC until the leadership of both houses decide on the matter.
Musngi’s appointment hit
It is only not the representation of Congress that is problematic, however. The JBC is also set to take up an objection to Musngi’s appointment to the JBC.
Mejia said they received a letter questioning the legality of Musngi’s designation as replacement of Justice Secretary Leila de Lima in the JBC. The Palace picked him to replace De Lima after the latter nhibited from the proceedings because she is one of the 22 aspirants to the post of chief justice.
The Constitution specified though that it is the Justice Secretary – and not any official representing the executive – who shall sit in the JBC. – Rappler.com