JBC grills 3 SC aspirants on pressing issues

MANILA-- The Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) on Tuesday conducted the public interview for three of the 13 nominees and were grilled on pressing issues such as the acquittal of pork barrel queen Janet Lim-Napoles from the serious illegal detention case filed by against her by PDAF whistleblower Benhur Luy and the declaration of martial law in Mindanao by President Rodrigo Duterte.

The JBC has received 13 nominations and applications for the upcoming vacancy in the SC that would enable President Rodrigo Duterte to name his fourth appointee to the high court, replacing SC Associate Justice Jose C. Mendoza

Mendoza is set to retire on Aug. 13 upon reaching the mandatory retirement age of 70 for justices.

The applicants were interviewed by the JBC are Deputy Ombudsman for Luzon Gerard A. Mosquera, Court of Appeals (CA) Associate Justice Samuel H. Gaerlan, and Sandiganbayan Associate Justice Alexander G. Gesmundo.

Gaerlan, who was the first to interviewed, and asked on his opinion about the decision of his CA division acquitting Napoles in the case involving the serious illegal detention of witness Benhur Luy.

"Upon review, there was no serious illegal detention because Benhur Luy was free to go out and contact family," he told the JBC, adding that there was "public pressure" for the CA to affirm the conviction of Napoles

He was also asked by the council on what his decision will be on the petitions challenging the factual basis of President Rodrigo R. Duterte's declaration of martial law in Mindanao.

Gaerlan said that he believes that "there is sufficient basis" of President Duterte's declaration, adding that there is rebellion and invasion in the area.

The said petitions were also acted upon, and dismissed, by the Supreme Court (SC) Tuesday afternoon.

For his part, Gesmundo was asked about their low disposition of cases in the Sandiganbayan.

"Cases in Sandiganbayan are peculiar," he explained, also citing as reasons the use of defendants of "multiple lawyers with different strategies" and the "difficulty bringing witnesses to the court."

Last to face the council was Mosquera who insisted on his independence should be given a chance to serve the high court.

"I will not be influenced. I have always stood up for my principles, resolved cases on basis of facts, evidence, applicable law," Mosquera noted.

The 10 others were no longer required to undergo the interviews as they have already been interviewed for previous vacancies. They are CA Presiding Justice Andres Reyes Jr.; Associate Justices Ramon Bato Jr., Apolinario Bruselas Jr., Rosmari Carandang, Stephen Cruz, Japar Dimaampao, Ramon Paul Hernando, Amy Lazaro-Javier and Jose Reyes Jr.; and Court Administrator Jose Midas Marquez.

Most of the aspirants were also nominated for the SC vacancy for the retirement of Associate Justice Bienvenido Reyes on July 6.

The JBC has already submitted to President Duterte a shortlist of seven nominees for the Reyes post, which included CA Presiding Justice Reyes, CA Justices Carandang, Bruselas, Dimaampao and Javier, and Centro Escolar University law school vice dean Rita Linda Ventura-Jimeno.

All the applicants will be screened by the JBC and the shortlist would be submitted to President Rodrigo R. Duterte.

Last March, Duterte named his first two appointees to the high court � Associate Justices Samuel Martires and Noel Tijam.

The JBC is chaired by Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, with two ex-officio members � Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II and legislative representatives Senator Richard Gordon and Mindoro Oriental Rep. Reynaldo Umali, who shall have a term sharing seat in the JBC.

The regular members of JBC are retired SC Justice Angelina Sandoval - Gutierrez for retired magistrates, lawyer Jose Mejia for the academe, lawyer Milagros Fernan-Cayosa for the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, and retired Judge Toribio Ilao for the private sector.

Source: Philippines News Agency