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In contravention of letter and spirit of Charter

Pardon the language, but the Supreme Court decision suspending the immediate execution of its July 17 ruling allowing only one member of the legislature in the Judicial and Bar Council is a “bakla” decision, or worse— the “worse” being that the impeachment and conviction of Chief Justice Renato Corona has had a very chilling effect on the judiciary. How else can one explain the speed with which the high court blinked just because the legislature asked it to? I hasten to add at this point that the members of the high court who are candidates for chief justice inhibited themselves from the proceedings.

And what is this I read, attributed to Sen. Joker Arroyo, that eight previous chief justices had sanctioned the 8-member composition of the JBC? That statement does not jibe with what I learned when I researched on the matter. The fact is that when the JBC was first convened, the House and the Senate alternated sending a representative to the JBC (each one sitting for six months). And then both the House and the Senate sent representatives, with each one entitled to half a vote. It was only during Chief Justice Hilario Davide’s term that the JBC allowed the two members of Congress one vote each, at the behest of then Sen. Aquilino Pimentel Jr., who argued that the constitutional provision was premised on a unicameral legislature.

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Davide was succeeded as chief justice by Artemio Panganiban, who recounts that the highly respected Dean Amado Dimayuga, representing the academe in the JBC, formally asked the council to revert to the practice of having only one representative and one vote from the legislature. Unfortunately, Sen. Francis Pangilinan, going against all principles of logic and delicadeza, persuaded the JBC not to take up the Dimayuga proposal on the grounds that only the Supreme Court had jurisdiction to rule on the issue.

Why “against all principles of logic and delicadeza”?  With respect to the logic part, well, my take is that if it was the JBC that allowed the legislature to have two votes in the first place, why shouldn’t the JBC be able to disallow it? And frankly, between Dimayuga’s opinion and Pangilinan’s, there is no contest as to which I would defer to.

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Now with respect to the delicadeza part, one would have thought that since Pangilinan, as the Senate representative, would have been directly affected by the decision, he should have inhibited himself from the discussion. But he did not.

Panganiban was succeeded as chief justice by Reynato Puno, and Puno by Corona. So who are the eight chief justices that Arroyo was referring to? Furthermore, I really don’t understand where Arroyo was coming from in his oral arguments before the Supreme Court. Just two weeks ago, in a radio interview, he not only knew the history of the legislature’s participation in the JBC (so he knew exactly when two votes from the legislature were allowed), he also emphatically stated that the constitutional provision was clear that the legislature was entitled to only one representative. What could have changed his mind in the interim?

And then there is that asinine argument of one Roman del Rosario, assistant solicitor general, who said that the “seven” alluded to in the Constitution regarding the composition of the JBC, actually referred to the number of agencies that should be part of the JBC, and not the number of representatives per sector. Good grief. That he could say that with a straight face in front of the Supreme Court is an indictment of the legal profession (I will grant that he could have been wincing inside).

Following is the provision in toto, so the Reader can appreciate the enormity of Del Rosario’s deliberate misinterpretation:

“Section 8. (1) A Judicial and Bar Council is hereby created under the supervision of the Supreme Court composed of the Chief Justice as ex officio Chairman, the Secretary of Justice, and a representative of the Congress as ex officio Members, a representative of the Integrated Bar, a professor of law, a retired Member of the Supreme Court, and a representative of the private sector.”

And yet on the basis of the kind of arguments described above, with no new ones presented to it, the high court flip-flops on its “immediately executory” decision of July 17, which was a 7-2 decision. Well, it doesn’t actually flip-flop, but it “suspends” its execution, apparently until the entire court can deliberate on the matter, which will be—how convenient—after the decision on the chief justice will have been made. Those seven members of the high court who voted in the original decision must have felt very insecure after the legislature came knocking at the door.

So what does this “suspension” mean? It means essentially that, yes, the legislature will be entitled to two votes in the JBC deliberations for chief justice, while the executive branch has only one, and the judiciary has only one. It means that the Supreme Court is allowing a practice to continue that is in contravention of not only the letter but also the spirit of the Constitution—the spirit being that the ex-officio members should be outnumbered by the regular members (one from the retired Supreme Court justices, one from the academe, one from the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, and one from the private sector—all presidential appointees, yes, but who have to be approved by the Commission on Appointments) to reduce the political factor. It means that the Supreme Court is allowing a practice to continue that is also in contravention of the universal practice of having odd-numbered members of councils/boards/committees.

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For shame.

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TAGS: chief justice selection process, congress, JBC, Solita Collas-Monsod, Supreme Court
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