JBC grills 6 nominees vying for SC justice post

MANILA The Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) on Thursday conducted the public interview for six of the 12 nominees vying for the post that Supreme Court (SC) Associate Justice Presbitero Velasco Jr. will vacate on Aug. 8, when he reaches the mandatory retirement age of 70.

Court of Appeals Associate Justices Oscar Badelles, Manuel Barrios, Ramon D.R. Garcia, Amy LazaroJavier, Davao Judge Carlos Espero II, and Cesar Villanueva were grilled on pressing issues, such as the disputed Panatag or Scarborough Shoal, the quo warranto petition, and same sex marriage.

Badelles, who was the first to be interviewed, was asked about his opinion on the Scarborough Shoal and how the judiciary would contribute in enforcing the claim.

Badelles stated that he cannot see an active role of the judiciary on the matter.

Historically, judiciary awaits on cases to be filed so that basically the pursuit on (the) West Philippine Sea should be done by the executive branch. Judiciary does not have an active role but rather passive on that, he said.

Regarding the alleged bribery at the Court of Appeals in exchange for the release of temporary restraining orders on cases, he said, I've heard about it but personally I've never experienced it.

Barrios, another CA justice, a lawyer for 43 years and RTC judge for 11 years, who resolved 1,055 cases from 2013 to 2018, said that he has the capacity to decide on a case in just two to three months.

Davao Judge Espero, who is also applying for the Ombudsman post, said he favors giving the JBC the sole power to appoint justices in the SC.

Espero also said that he respects the "seniority rule" in the High Court and would not apply for the chief justice post if given the opportunity.

I respect the seniority rule at the Supreme Court. In respect to the position, not the age, first in first appointed, last out, he said.

He also affirmed that he is independent in structuring decisions and claimed he does not accept any type of bribe, believing that it is his greatest contribution to the Philippines.

Garcia, who just turned 64, said that while there are applicants who are younger than him, he still decided to take his chance.

He noted that records will show that in the past five years, he has decided 75 cases, and that he has the lowest number of pending cases in the Court of Appeals, most of which are in the completion stage.

Asked what strategy he would employ when he is appointed to the Supreme Court, where the number of cases assigned to him would be much greater, Garcia answered that as he did in his previous positions, he would make an inventory of all the inherited cases.

LazaroJavier, when asked how she could maximize the use of social media and the internet in the Judiciary, answered she would use them in disseminating information among the people and reach out to the public pertaining to the policy of the court.

The JBC is constitutionally mandated to screen and vet nominees to the President for vacant posts in the judiciary and the offices of the Ombudsman and Deputy Ombudsman. It consists of seven members the SC Chief Justice, the Justice Secretary and a representative of Congress as ex officio members; and a representative each from retired SC justices, the academe, the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, and the private sector as regular members.

It is chaired by Senior Associate Justice and now acting Chief Justice Antonio Carpio, with exofficio members Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra, Senator Richard Gordon, and Oriental Mindoro Rep. Reynaldo Umali.

Its regular members are retired SC Associate Justice Jose Catral Mendoza, representing the justices and chairperson of the JBC Executive Committee; lawyer Jose Mejia, representing the academe; lawyer Milagros FernanCayosa, representing the Integrated Bar of the Philippines; and retired Judge Toribio Ilao, representing the private sector.

President Rodrigo Duterte has 90 days to name Velasco's replacement in the high court.

Twelve candidates are being considered to replace Velasco, six of whom have been previously interviewed, including SC Court Administrator Midas Marquez, who was among the candidates wanting to take over the post vacated by SC Associate Justices Bienvenido Reyes and Jose Mendoza.

The other candidates who have already been interviewed are Ramon Bato, Apolinario Bruselas Jr., Rosemari Carandang, Ramon Paul Hernando, and Jose Reyes Jr. (With reports from Rachel BaAaresOJT/PNA)

Source: Philippine News Agency