Lawmaker insists Justice Peralta can’t head JBC

MANILA (Updated 11 a.m.) — Associate Justice Diosdado Peralta could not sit as acting chairperson of the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) because that will counter the provision of the Constitution, a member from the House of Representatives said Monday.

Iloilo Representative Niel Tupas Jr.said they had a lengthy discussion last Friday if they will honor the Supreme Court decision favoring the appointment of a senior justice who did not apply for the position of Chief Justice to sit in the JBC.

The JBC is a constitutional body tasked to screen and submit a shortlist of nominees from which the President will make appointments to vacant judicial posts, including the position of Ombudsman.

The JBC thought otherwise as it stood by the decision to let retired Supreme Court Associate Justice Regino Hermosisima to lead the proceedings following the inhibition of Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, one of the 22 contenders for the post vacated by Renato Corona last May 29.

“The Chief Justice sits as ex-officio member. If we say ex-officio, that’s by virtue of your office. If the Chief Justice inhibits, then the Supreme Court will no longer have representation. The Constitution never stated that an Associate Justice can sit there,” he said in a television interview.

Following tradition, the five most senior magistrates are automatically nominated for the post left by Corona, who was removed by the Senate impeachment court for incomplete declaration of cash assets tantamount to betrayal of public trust and culpable violation of the Constitution.

Carpio and Justices Presbitero Velasco Jr. Teresita Leonardo-de Castro and Arturo Brion accepted their nominations, while Peralta declined to be considered.

Peralta, 60, who was appointed by then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in January 2009, was a former presiding justice of the anti-graft court Sandiganbayan. He is a known specialist in criminal law.

Citing Section 12 of the Judiciary Act of 1948, the court said on July 3 that in case of vacancy in the office of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, or of his inability to perform the duties and powers of his office, “they shall devolve upon the Associate Justice who is first in precedence, until such disability is removed, or another Chief Justice is appointed and duly qualified.”

“This provision shall apply to every Associate Justice who succeeds to the office of the Chief Justice,” the provision stated.

But the same decision stated that the eight-man body can still perform its mandated task of submitting the list of nominees to the President even if the constitutionally named ex-officio chair (Chief Justice) does not sit in it.

The JBC will grill candidates in a public interview starting July 24, a day after President Benigno Aquino III delivers his State of the Nation Address (Sona) in Congress.

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