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JBC to draw up shortlist of high court nominees

The Judicial and Bar Council will come up on Friday with a shortlist of the nominees for the position of chief justice that was left vacant following the ouster of Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, an official said Monday.

Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra, an ex-officio member of the JBC, said the seven-member council opted to defer its deliberation and vote on the shortlist for the most coveted post in the judiciary on Aug. 24 to give them more time to review all the documents submitted by the aspirants.

The five candidates for the top judicial post were subjected to a public interview on Aug. 16.

“We reset it to August 24 to have more time to review all the documents submitted by the nominees, particularly the SALNs [Statements of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth],” Guevarra said.

The five nominees for the post are Supreme Court Associate Justices Teresita Leonardo-de Castro, Diosdado Peralta, Lucas Bersamin and Andres Reyes Jr. and Tagum City, Davao del Norte Regional Trial Court Judge Virginia Tejano-Ang.

Guevarra said the council wanted to scrutinize all nominees and applicants, particularly their proven integrity which was the basis for Sereno’s ouster.

“We are being extra-careful in the screening for the chief justice post,” Guevarra said. 

“Surely, the Sereno quo warranto case has taught us many lessons from which we in the JBC can draw guidance in future deliberations not only for the chief justice position but also for all judicial positions that require utmost honesty and integrity.” 

Guevarra said the JBC must ensure that the next chief justice would not be the subject of another quo warranto case that could have repercussions on the stability of the judiciary.

Sereno was ousted from her post after the high court ruled with finality last June to invalidate her appointment in 2012 and grant the quo warranto petition by Solicitor General Jose Calida.

The Court ruled she was disqualified from her post for her failure to submit all required SALNs when she was teaching law at the University of the Philippines and during her application for the post, effectively reversing the finding of the JBC when it shortlisted her for the post.

The council has required the submission of at least 10 SALNs but Sereno only submitted three―for 1998, 2002 and 2006―and still made it to the shortlist.

The JBC has six members with Acting Chief Justice Antonio Carpio as chairman. The others are Guevarra, Senator Richard Gordon, retired high court justice Jose Catral-Mendoza, retired judge Toribio Ilao and lawyer Milagros Fernan-Cayosa. 

Last month, the high court submitted to the JBC its recommendation for the post of chief justice and endorsed all its four members vying for the post.

Bersamin topped the list after getting the unanimous votes of the 10 other justices, while De Castro and Peralta got 10 votes each. Reyes, on the other hand, got two votes. They were among the eight justices who voted to oust Sereno from the top judicial post by granting the quo warranto petition by Calida. 

De Castro, Peralta and Bersamin accepted their automatic nominations for the post enjoyed by the five most senior justices of the high court. Reyes and Ang, on the other hand, applied for the post.

The 1987 Constitution requires the chief justice, just like the associate justices of the high court, to be a natural-born citizen, to be at least 40 years old, to have experience as a judge or in private law practice for at least 15 days, and to be a person with proven competence, integrity, probity and independence. 

Topics: Judicial and Bar Council , Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno , Secretary Menardo Guevarra
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