Wanted: New Supreme Court Chief Justice

The Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) had already started the interview of the long list of nominees to the post of Chief Justice of the Republic of the Philippines, which was vacated by Renato Corona after the Senate impeachment court convicted him last May 29.

Under the Constitution, a member of the Supreme Court must be a natural-born citizen of the Philippines, at least 40 years of age, and must have been for 15 years or more, a judge of a lower court or engaged in the practice of law in the country, and must be of proven competence, integrity, probity and independence.

The nominees now being considered by the JBC are all outstanding men and women who have excelled in their profession.

The list was published in newspapers last July 9 to give the public 10 days to oppose the nomination of any candidate. The issues will be raised to the concerned applicant during the public interviews.

Twenty-two nominees deemed qualified under the 1987 Constitution, made it to the JBC long list. A mix of Supreme Court magistrates, government officials and members of the academe – will be subjected to the initial screening of the JBC. The candidates are now undergoing public interview which started today, July 24 and will end on Friday, July 27.

Below are the first six nominees that were interviewed by the seven-member council yesterday, July 24.

The list of nominees for Supreme Court Chief Justice in alphabetical order: 

  1. SC Associate Justice Roberto A. Abad
  2. PCGG Chairman Andres Bautista
  3. SC Associate Justice Arturo D. Brion
  4. Law Professor Soledad Cagampang-De Castro
  5. Acting Chief Justice Antonio T. Carpio
  6. Justice Secretary Leila M. De Lima
  7. Human rights lawyer Jose Manuel I. Diokno
  8. SEC Chairperson Teresita J. Herbosa
  9. Solicitor-General Francis H. Jardeleza
  10. Women’s rights advocate Maria Carolina T. Legarda
  11. SC Associate Justice Teresita Leonardo De Castro
  12. Lawyer Rafael Morales
  13. Former UP Law Dean Raul C. Pangalangan
  14. Congressman Rufus B. Rodriguez
  15. Comelec Commissioner Rene V. Sarmiento
  16. SC Associate Justice Maria Lourdes A. Sereno
  17. Lawyer Manuel DJ Siayngco Jr.1
  18. UE Law Dean Amado D. Valdez
  19. SC Associate Justice Presbitero Velasco Jr.
  20. Lawyer Vicente Velasquez
  21. Former Ateneo Law Dean Cesar Villanueva
  22. Former Executive Secretary Ronaldo B. Zamora

Who among the 22 nominees vying for the post of Chief Justice has “proven competence, integrity, probity and independence?”

Competence, as provided in the Constitution, implies superior intellect as shown by impressive academic qualifications and training in various facets of the law.

But superior intellect alone is not enough if it is not matched by management skills. The position involves overseeing an independent branch of the government that exercises jurisdiction over the judiciary—from the Regional Trial Courts to the Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court itself.

Given the public outcry to overhaul the judiciary following the impeachment and subsequent removal of Chief Justice Renato Corona, the criterion of independence has become a major consideration.

Independence means upholding the Constitution and the laws of the land without being swayed by any personal or partisan considerations, and pursuing reforms in the judiciary without being unduly influenced by entrenched interests and existing power blocs.

Against the backdrop of the Corona trial, some legal experts insist now is the time for an outsider to head the highest court of the land in order to give way to a top-to-bottom overhaul of the judicial system.

President Benigno Aquino himself has indicated he is open to the possibility of appointing an outsider. And an outsider may just be what the judiciary needs.

The above illustration shows the schedule of the interview. Below we could see the process that will be followed in the appointment of a new Chief Justice.

Aquino has 90 days or until August 27 to fill up the position vacated by Renato Corona, who was removed by the Senate impeachment court over concealed cash assets tantamount to betrayal of public trust and culpable violation of the Constitution.

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