#AnimatED: Duterte’s Supreme Court

Rappler.com
#AnimatED: Duterte’s Supreme Court
Democracy will tear to pieces if one more institution falls under the grip of the President

Last week, we saw aspirants to the Supreme Court interviewed for 2 vacancies by the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC). Images of men and women vying for the highest court of the land came to us via our mobile phones, laptops and television.

We had glimpses into their ideas, where they stood on certain issues, including:

Extrajudicial killings (EJK): a Davao judge said, “Legally, there is no EJK in our country because when we say EJK, it’s a state-sponsored killing. The President says he’s against killing extrajudicially, and he’s for upholding the rule of law.”

Acquittal of former President Gloria Arroyo by the Supreme Court: a Sandiganbayan justice agrees with this decision.

Laws on adultery: the head of the Public Attorney’s Office advocates harsher laws for women than men.

Independence from the executive branch: a Court of Appeals justice, who was Duterte’s classmate in law school, said he does not expect the President to ask him favors.

Burial of dictator Ferdinand Marcos in the heroes’ cemetery: a legal academic agrees with this Supreme Court decision.

Apart from these interviews, the JBC has to give weight to the aspirants’ track record in the judiciary, private sector, government or academe. Overall, the JBC, in arriving at its shortlists, should aim for justices who are competent, have unsullied reputations, and have shown independence from powerful forces and vested interests.

Next month, President Duterte will make his first appointees to the Court as Justices Jose Perez and Arturo Brion retire.

By some quirk of fate, Duterte will appoint 8 more during his term. Justices Bienvenido Reyes  and Jose Mendoza will step down next year. 

In 2018, Justices Presbitero Velasco Jr and Teresita de Castro will follow. 

And in 2019, four will leave the Court: Justices Antonio CarpioFrancis JardelezaMariano del Castillo and Lucas Bersamin.

If Duterte does not abide by the appointments ban during the election period in 2022, he can appoint 2 more. Justices Estela Bernabe and Diosdado Peralta will retire by then.

What is disturbing is that Duterte can change the character of the 15-member Supreme Court through his 10 to 12 appointees. Independence of the institution will be the first casualty. We’ve seen how this has happened in the past, when Arroyo appointed 9 of the justices. 

A vital task falls on the shoulders of the JBC. Will they be able to insulate the selection process from politics? Will they be able to say no to pressure? 

We urge the public to watch them closely. Otherwise, democracy will tear to pieces if one more institution falls under the grip of the President. – Rappler.com

 

 

 

 

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