JBC changes mind, won’t vote on Monday

(UPDATED) The Judicial and Bar Council postpones its self-imposed July 30 deadline in submitting its choice nominees for chief justice to President Aquino

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – The Judicial and Bar Council has postponed its July 30 (Monday) deadline for submitting a shortlist of nominees for chief justice to President Benigno Aquino III.

In a meeting Friday, July 27, the last day of its public interview of nominees, the council decided to have their “final deliberations” on their choices on Thursday, August 2. This means the voting may not even happen next week.

The decision came hours after one of its members, Jose Mejia, told reporters that the council will proceed with the Monday voting without congressional representation.

On Friday, the Senate and the House pulled out of the council following a Supreme Court decision ordering both houses to only have one representative in the council.

The Senate and the House pulled out even if they had already filed a motion for reconsideration with the Supreme Court.

Senator Francis Pangilinan, a former member of the JBC, welcomed the postponement. On his Twitter account, Pangilinan said: “To go ahead w/ the vote on Mon w/o participation of the legislature would cast a cloud of doubt on the validity of the entire proceeding.” He added: “All JBC members must pause and think this through, and work towards a win-win solution in the current impasse.”

When it convened for the selection process for the next chief justice, the JBC imposed a July 30 deadline to come up with a shortlist for the President. The post, vacated by Renato Corona last May 29, has to be filled up not later than August.

Senator Francis Escudero, a JBC member until Friday’s congressional boycott, earlier said that nominees with pending disbarment complaints or cases against them have to resolve these issues before July 30. Otherwise, the council will have no choice but to disqualify them, he added.

The delay in the voting augurs well for Malacañang’s favored nominee, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima. She is facing two disbarment complaints that the Supreme Court had referred to the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) for disposal.

When she faced the JBC on July 24, De Lima was told by presiding officer Supreme Court Associate Justice Diosdado Peralta that she was running out of time given the council’s July 30 deadline. Even if the IBP resolves the complaints, Peralta told De Lima, it will be the SC that will have the final say on it, he added.

Under Rule 4, Section 5 of the JBC rules, the following are considered disqualifed from “appointment to any judicial post or as Ombudsman or Deputy Ombudsman:”

  • those with pending criminal or regular administrative cases
  • those with pending criminal cases in foreign courts or tribunal
  • those who have been convicted in any criminal case; or in an administrative case, where the penalty imposed is at least a fine of more than P10,000, unless granted judicial clemency

The problem with this is that the JBC — after all these years — has yet to have one definitive stand on what a “regular” administrative case is. (We tackled this in our story on De Lima and Devanadera.)

De Lima argued before the JBC that she should not be disqualified as a contender for the post of chief justice because her disbarment cases “have not yet ripened” to regular administrative cases. Pending the “preliminary determination of merit,” De Lima said the cases remain to be at the investigation level. – Rappler.com

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