The Judicial and Bar Council on Monday clarified that all incumbent associate justice of the Supreme Court are automatically qualified to the most coveted Chief Justice post regardless of the number of remaining years they have once appointed as top magistrate.
Retired SC Associate Justice Jose Catral Mendoza, a member of the 7-member JBC representing the retired SC justices, said that a sitting associate justice of the high court is not covered by the JBC’s revised rules adopted last May 21.
According to Mendoza, Section 1, Rule 8 of the JBC rules “covers only an associate justice or presiding justice of an appellate court—Court of Appeals (CA), Court of Tax Appeals and Sandiganbayan.”
Mendoza made the clarification after the council, as mandated by the new JBC rules, will consider the age of its nominees to the SC posts “to discourage the appointment of those who would not be able to serve for a reasonably sufficient time.”
Under Rule 8, the JBC will consider for nomination only applicants who have “at least two and one and a half years remaining to serve as SC associate justice or Chief Justice if they have served as associate justice or presiding justice of an appellate court, court administrator, chairperson of a constitutional commission, solicitor general, or department secretary.”
Rule 8 also provides that five years of remaining service in the SC is required for private law practitioners and for those who would not meet the qualifications on the two-and-a half-year remaining service requirement.
The JBC is the constitutional office that accepts, screens and nominates appointments to the judiciary, Ombudsman, deputy Ombudsman, special prosecutor, and the chairperson and regular members of the Legal Education Board.
“I believe the statement of Justice Mendoza is also founded on the rule in statutory construction that “express mention is implied exclusion,” Supreme Court’s spokesman Brian Keith F. Hosaka said, in a text message.
Chief Justice Diosdado M. Peralta is expected to head the country’s judiciary until his compulsory retirement on March 27, 2022.
On Friday, the JBC will hold a virtual interview of four of the 13 aspirants to the post vacated by the Associate Justice Andres B. Reyes Jr. who retired last May 11.
There will be another vacancy in September with the mandatory retirement of Associate Justice Jose C. Reyes Jr. The JBC has opened the applications or nominations to his post.
Under the rules, President Duterte has 90 days from the date of the vacancy to fill up a vacant post in the SC.