Questions JBC failed to ask CJ nominees
MANILA, Philippines - Day One of the public interview with the contenders for the post of chief justice is over, but not a single thing was asked about their respective Statements of Assets, Liabilities and Net worth (SALNs) or bank waivers.
The Judicial and Bar Council (JBC), the body that screens and vets aspirants for judicial posts for final selection by the President, directed the 22 nominees for chief justice to submit their SALNs and sign a bank waiver. The order came in the aftermath of the removal of Chief Justice Renato Corona on May 29 for his failure to disclose at least P183-M in dollar and peso bank deposits in his SALN.
Below are the questions we think the JBC members failed to ask the nominees on Day One of the public interviews, July 24.
1.) Explain your wealth and how you acquired it. What do you think about the High Court's guidelines on the release of the SALN? Why did you sign a bank waiver? What are the pros and cons of asking an SC justice to sign a bank waiver?
While the JBC promised it would not disclose the SALNs and bank waivers to the public, questions related to them are worth asking on the basis of the public's right to know.
For one, 3 public officials were interviewed on Tuesday, July 24: Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, Presidential Commission on Good Government chairman Andres Bautista, and Solicitor General Francis Jardeleza.
They should have been asked about significant changes in their net worth, if there were any. Or the JBC should have at least asked them if they are willing to disclose their SALNs to the public once appointed chief justice.
The only nominee asked about his SALN was from the academe -- De La Salle Law Dean Jose Manuel Diokno -- but only in relation to his delayed submission. Diokno explained he only learned about the requirement last Friday, July 20, and needed time to prepare it.
2.) What do you think about the High Court's decision that barred justices and Court employees from testifying in the Corona impeachment trial? Do you agree with the Court's decision stopping the release of documents related to the actions and decisions of Corona and the entire court during the trial?
This is an issue of transparency involving the judiciary, as well as the powers of the High Tribunal itself. While independence and autonomy are vital to an effective Supreme Court, who checks on it in cases of abuse of authority? Can the High Court just cite the threat of a constitutional crisis in the event of clashes with the legislative branch of government?
3.) To De Lima: there were reports that the President asked you to accept this nomination. Is this true? To what extent did the executive influence your decision to vie for the post of chief justice?
Known to be the frontrunner among the candidates for chief justice, she should have been asked whether she has political ambitions and whether an invitation to run for an elective post could compel her resignation as chief justice -- if she is appointed.
Likewise, to assure her independence if appointed, she should have been asked how she intends to keep her distance on legal questions that may involve former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. De Lima's defiance of the SC's temporary restraining order that barred the former president and her husband, Jose Miguel Arroyo, from leaving the country, was key to her prosecution.
The JBC asked how she can be independent from the executive, to which De Lima said she has proven in her stint as head of the Commission on Human Rights that she is not beholden to the appointing authority.
De Lima also offered an interesting answer: she said she will inculcate the ideal of "matuwid na daan" -- the very plaltform and government slogan of Aquino -- in the judiciary. What exactly does she mean? Does this mirror her inclination to act or decide in favor of the President's vision, if not in favor of the President per se, to the disadvantage of his opponents?
Known to be a shooting buddy of the President too, De Lima should have been asked how her personal interaction with the President would change if she is appointed.
4.) To the 3 public officials -- De Lima, Jardeleza, Bautista -- what are your respective case disposal rates? Give us figures, numbers, statistics from your term.
This would indicate an empirical, quantitative measure of performance that goes beyond pronouncements or motherhood statements.
5.) How did you spend the budget in your respective agencies? How do you intend to spend the budget of the judiciary?
De Lima and Bautista raised the need for bigger budget and fiscal autonomy for the judiciary. The budget is a sticky issue between the Court and the executive, especially with the introduction of the Miscellaneous Personnel Benefit Fund, where P2 billion of the Court's budget was supposed to be impounded and released only when vacancies in the courts are to be filled.
De Lima as Justice Secretary previously said she will file a legal opinion on this. Where is that opinion? What is her opinion?
6.) How will they handle allegations of corruption against their fellow SC justices?
The question should especially be addressed to members of the High Court vying for chief justice. Their fraternal ties to colleagues, as well as independence of mind should be probed.
7.) The president's allies
The last question is also applicable to Bautista and Jardeleza, who also work with, and for, the President.
For Bautista -- he said the fact that Eduardo "Danding" Cojuangco -- who has numerous cases in the Presidential Commission on Good Government -- is Aquino's relative made him think how it is best possible to proceed with issues. Why did this become a consideration for him?
Bautista's personal data sheet reveals a pending case against him which he indicated was "for mediation." What are the details of this case?
Jardeleza, for his part, should have been asked the same question as De Lima: to what extent did the executive influence his decision to vie for the post of chief justice? When and what they did talk about it?
Will the three inhibit from cases involving the Aquino administration? Why or why not? - Rappler.com
More in #SCWatch:
- 22 official candidates for Chief Justice
- JBC to interview CJ candidates starting July 24
- 25 accept nominations for chief justice
- Questions for chief justice candidates
- JBC should review process of choosing CJ
- Besides JBC, Palace has judicial search committee
- CONVERSATIONS: How should the JBC choose the next chief justice? #SCWatch