The Supreme Court has turned down a bid to restore separate voting representation of the Senate and House of Representatives in the Judicial and Bar Council for appointments in the judiciary and the Office of the Ombudsman.
Voting 9-5 during its en banc session Tuesday, the SC dismissed the petition of House committee on justice chairman and Oriental Mindoro Rep. Reynaldo Umali seeking to strike down the current policy of the JBC designating only one voting representation to both houses of Congress in deliberations for shortlists in vacancies under a shared term arrangement.
The high court disagreed with Umali’s assertion that the seven-member composition of the JBC violates the Constitution because it deprives Congress of fair representation in the council where two other co-equal branches of government have three members each.
The SC decision penned by Associate Justice Presbitero Velasco Jr. found no merit in the petition and instead affirmed the Court’s 2012 ruling that cut the voting representations of the Senate and House from two to one through a petition by the late former Solicitor General Frank Chavez.
“As a result of the dismissal of the petition, the decision of the Court in Chavez v. JBC stands,” SC spokesman Theodore Te said.
Eight magistrates concurred in the ruling, namely Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio and Associate Justices Diosdado Peralta, Lucas Bersamin, Jose Mendoza, Estela Perlas-Bernabe, Francis Jardeleza, Alfredo Benjamin Caguioa and Noel Tijam.
The five justices who dissented and voted to grant the petition were Associate Justices Teresita Leonard- De Castro, Mariano Del Castillo, Marvic Leonen, Samuel Martinez and Andres Reyes Jr.
Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno inhibited from the case, being the ex-officio chair of JBC.
Umali filed the petition,saying that given the current system, he would only be able to vote in two vacancies out of the eight vacancies in the first three years in the six-year term of President Duterte.
The other six vacancies, he said, would be filled while his counterpart – Senate justice committee chair Sen. Richard Gordon – sits in the JBC for Congress.
Aside from alternate voting, the JBC has also adopted the half-voting system for the two representatives of Congress by allowing them to vote in the same deliberation but only with 0.5 vote each.
The JBC is chaired by Sereno with Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II as ex-officio member representing the executive branch and Senator Gordon and Rep. Umali sharing a term as legislative representative.
The regular members are retired SC Justice Angelina Sandoval-Gutierrez, who heads the Executive Committee; lawyer Jose Mejia, representing the academe; lawyer Milagros Fernan-Cayosa, representing the Integrated Bar of the Philippines; and retired Judge Toribio Ilao, representing the private sector.