[UPDATE] SC Justices Bernabe, Del Castillo decline CJ nomination

MANILA, Philippines - Supreme Court Justices Estela Perlas-Bernabe and Mariano Del Castillo have declined their respective nominations for the post of chief justice on Wednesday, May 20.

Del Castillo is the subject of a pending impeachment complaint in the House of Representatives. An impeachment complaint was filed against him in 2010 for allegedly plagiarizing parts of his decision in the case Vinuya v. Executive Secretary. Under the rules of the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC), the body that vets judiciary aspirants to the President, contenders with pending administrative and criminal cases shall be disqualified.

The SC has cleared him of any liability, however, saying attributions to the said plagiarized parts were "accidentally deleted."

All 14 SC magistrates have been nominated for the post. The 9 SC junior magistrates - or those who have been recently appointed -have been nominated. These include Bernabe, who will serve in the SC for 10 years before reaching the mandatory retirement age of 70, Del Castillo, Justices Lourdes Sereno, Jose Perez, Roberto Abad, Lucas Bersamin, Bienvenido Reyes , Jose Mendoza and Martin Villarama.

The 5 most senior justices - Acting Chief Justice Antonio Carpio, Justices Presbitero Velasco, Teresita Leonardo de Castro, Arturo Brion and Diosdado Peralta - are automatically nominated to replace former Chief Justice Renato Corona. Corona was removed on May 29 after the Senate, sitting as an impeachment court, convicted him for failing declare P183 million peso and dollar bank deposits in his statements of assets, liabilities and networth. 

Justice Roberto Abad is the oldest among the SC justices. The 68-year-old will retire in 2014 when he reaches 70. He has accepted his nomination along with Brion. Another nominee, Rene Saguisag, wanted Abad or former executive secretary Ronaldo Zamora (who will also turn 68 in December) appointed, saying the SC needs an "interim chief justice."

As of Wednesday, June 20, there are 53 nominees for chief justice - 14 SC justices and 35 SC "outsiders."

Seven have declined their nomination. They include Bernabe, defeated presidential candidate Gilbert Teodoro, former assistant provincial prosecutor Marianito Sasodoncillo, Integrated Bar of the Philippines president Roan Libarios and former Energy Secretary Raphael "Popo" Lotilla.

Saguisag also emailed the JBC saying he will decline his nomination because he is already 72, past the mandatory retirement age of 70 for SC justices. Del Castillo and Landphil president Rodolfo Robles also declined his nomination. 

New nominees

New nominees include SC Justices Mendoza, Villarama, Reyes, Bersamin, Sandiganbayan Presiding Francisco Villaruz, Court of Appeals Presiding Justice Andres Reyes and CA Justice Antonio Villamor. 

Previously nominated were Dean Jose Manuel Diokno, Saguisag, Presidential Commission on Good Government chairman Andres Bautista, Court of Appeals Justice Japar Dimaampao, Malabon University president Ramon Maronilla, Manila regional trial court Judge Amelia Tria-Infante, Commission on Elections official Rene Sarmiento, Zamora, retired Judge Manuel Siyangco Jr, former Ateneo law dean Cesar Villanueva, UP Professors Katrina Legarda and Rafael Morales, and former UP law dean Raul Pangalangan.

Other SC "outsiders" who were recommended for the post include lawyers Rey Alejandrino, Alexander Padilla, Vicente Velasquez, Renante Terre, Soledad Cagampang de Castro, Securities and Exchange Commission chairperson Teresita Herbosa, Dean Amado Valdez of the University of the East College of Law, lawyer Pedro Aquino, government peace panel chair Marvic Leonen, former congressman Teodoro "Teddy Boy" Locsin Jr, former Solicitor-General Francisco "Frank" Chavez, Bureau of Internal Revenue Commissioner Kim HenaresJustice Sec. Leila De Lima, incumbent Solicitor-General Francis Jardeleza,  and dismissed Judge Florentino Floro.

Diokno, Sarmiento, Zamora, Siyangco Jr, Villanueva, Legarda, Morales and Pangalangan have accepted their respective nominations.

Retired Court of Appeals Justice Hilarion Aquino was previously disqualified because he is already 80 years old.

The sole applicant, Jocelyn Esquivel, could not also be considered for the post because she is not a lawyer. Esquivel is a teacher and a nurse. JBC member Jose Mejia said though that while the two have been disqualified, their names remain in the list pending the finalization of the set of nominees and applicants.

The list is expected to grow following the decision of the JBC to extend the application and nomination period to July 2.

President Aquino has 90 days from May 29, when Corona was removed, to name the next chief justice. Rappler.com

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