THE House of Representatives has appealed to the Supreme Court to restore its uninterruptible voting power in the Judicial and Bar Council for appointments in the judiciary and the office of the Ombudsman.
In a petition filed Thursday, House justice committee chairman and Oriental Mindoro Rep. Reynaldo Umali urged the SC to abandon its existing policy that limits the representation of both the Senate and House of Representatives in the JBC to only one voting in deliberations for shortlists in vacancies in the judiciary and Ombudsman.
It was the SC itself that cut the voting representations of the Senate and House from two to one in a 2012 ruling that granted the petition of the late former Solicitor General Frank Chavez.
The same SC decision, which already became final, has reduced the members of the constitutional body tasked to vet nominees to judicial posts from eight to seven.
Just like the position of previous leaders of the Senate and House in the previous administration whose joint appeal on the ruling was dismissed by the SC, Umali told the SC the seven-member composition of the JBC violates the Constitution insofar as it deprives Congress of fair representation in the council where two other co-equal branches of government have three members each.
The lawmaker cited as proof the deliberations of the JBC held last Dec. 2 and 9 for the two vacancies in the SC for the retirements this month of Associate Justices Jose Perez and Arturo Brion where the votes he submitted were not counted.
In both deliberations, the council chaired by Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno only counted the votes submitted by Senate justice committee chair Richard Gordon because of the current six-month rotation in the membership in JBC of the Senate and House representatives.
Apart from alternate voting, the JBC has also adopted 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.
“In case where each was given a half-vote, the rights of both the House of Representatives and the Senate are diluted. In case of six months rotation, there is periodic denial or deprivation of such right, contrary to the purpose of the Constitution. Only when both the House of Representatives and the Senate are given an equal vote of one each, is there a full recognition of their independent right of representation,” Umali argued.
He lamented 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 stressed, would be filled while Sen. Gordon will sit for Congress.
Because of these grounds, Umali accused the JBC of committing grave abuse of discretion and asked the SC to declare the current setup of rotational representation of the Senate and House as unconstitutional.
Umali also urged the high court to order the council to count the votes he submitted for the two current vacancies.