Get Real

Questions for the JBC

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Rule 10 of the Rules of the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) is as follows:

“Rule 10 VOTING REQUIREMENTS

“Sec. 1: Votes required for inclusion as nominee.—No applicant shall be considered for nomination for appointment to a judicial position unless he shall obtain the affirmative vote of at least a majority of all the Members of the Council.

“Sec. 2. Votes required when integrity of a qualified applicant is challenged.—In every case where the integrity of an applicant who is not otherwise disqualified for nomination is raised or challenged, the affirmative vote of all the Members of the Council must be obtained for the favorable consideration of his nomination.”

This means that for anyone to be included in the list of nominees submitted to the President for final selection, he must receive at least five votes.

Why five, and not four, when the JBC, under the Constitution, has only seven members—four “regular” and three “ex oficio”?

The ex oficio members are the secretary of justice, the Chief Justice, and the representative of the legislature. And the four regular members are a representative of the legal academe, of the private sector, and of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, and a retired justice of the Supreme Court, all with fixed terms of four years, whose appointments have to be approved by the Commission on Appointments.

The reason, it would seem, why the four regulars outnumber the ex oficio members is to ensure that any partisan political considerations on the part of the ex oficio members (three) can be outweighed by the votes of the independent regular members (four).

Beautiful, no? Except it no longer works that way. First, the chairs of the Senate and House justice committees refused to take turns serving as representative of the legislature. So they both attended and were given one-half a vote each. But then, at their urging, they were given one vote each—for a total of two votes for the legislature—in total disregard of the constitutional mandate.

The total number of votes now stands at eight—four ex oficio and four regular members. Which means that the four regular members, no matter how united and independent, no longer constitute a majority.

On the other hand, the ex oficio members, voting as a solid block, don’t comprise a majority either. So how to ensure that their will be done? Simple. Make sure that at least one of the regular members plays ball—either by the promise of reappointment, or by selecting someone who is already coopted.

The net result is that the JBC’s independence is compromised. Its rule of appointing only those with competence, integrity, probity and independence falls by the wayside.

No wonder, then, that the perception that the judiciary is corrupt is widespread—although to be fair, according to the Global Corruption Barometer, Filipinos perceive its ranking to be only No. 5, behind—starting from the most corrupt—political parties, the legislature, the police, and the civil service. One’s appointment may—although definitely not always, because there are many glorious exceptions—depend more on who one knows than on the other posted necessary qualifications.

Now look at Sec. 2 of Rule 10 as quoted above. When there is a question of integrity, it is not enough for an applicant to the position to get a majority vote before he is included in the list of nominees sent to the President. He must get the unanimous consent of the JBC!

Which means, Reader, that for Renato Corona to have been included in the list of nominees for associate justice of the Supreme Court in 2002, he must have gotten the unanimous endorsement of the JBC members at the time. Why? Because there already was a question regarding his integrity, because of the formal objection to him posed by his wife’s uncle—in connection with the Basa-Guidote case—which started in 1998, when his name was being tossed around as a possible appointee to the Supreme Court.

At the time, and this can be verified, the ex oficio members were Chief Justice Hilario Davide Jr., Justice Secretary Hernando B. Perez, Sen. Francis Pangilinan, and Rep. Alan Peter Cayetano. One of the four regular members was retired Justice Regino Hermosisima Jr., who is still a member up to now. The other three, although I may be wrong here, were Alfredo M. Marigomen, Teresita Cruz Sison and Dean Amado L. Dimayuga.

Obviously, Pangilinan and Cayetano must have either disregarded the integrity issue completely—and voted for Corona because they were Arroyo allies at the time—or else studied the Basa-Guidote case and found Corona’s integrity intact. It would be interesting to find out from them why they voted for him in the 2002 JBC deliberations.

The point is, which may be unpleasant to the ears of many, that if either Sison or Dimayuga had voted Nay, Corona would not have ended up on the list submitted to then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo for her choice. But they must have voted Yea. And since their nonpartisanship was not in doubt, they must have thought Corona fit to be a nominee. Either that, or they were negligent. But that is hard to believe.

It could also be, of course, that the JBC disregarded Rule 10 Sec. 2 in its deliberations regarding Corona—but that should certainly be investigated. Because if Corona passed muster with the JBC on the Basa-Guidote issue, the logical question has to be: Why is he being put through the wringer on it again?

I ask because I object to throwing all the mud that one can at a person, and then rejecting him because he is dirty.

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