POSTSCRIPT / August 2, 2018 / Thursday


Opinion Columnist

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Carpio CJ favorite; Bersamin close 2nd

TRY surveying informally your well-informed friends, asking them who they think should be appointed Chief Justice.

We did that last week, and acting Chief Justice Antonio J. Carpio emerged the runaway favorite, with Associate Justice Lucas Bersamin a close second. But with Carpio declining his nomination, Bersamin appears to be leading the pack.

Using email, text and Viber, we sent this survey message to 25 selected friends:

“I’m running a survey of a few people whose opinion I value. Everything you say will be strictly confidential. Pls give your Top 3 Choices, in descending order, for Chief Justice. Use generally accepted criteria, including yung hindi nagbebenta ng decisions to the highest bidder. If you want to explain your choices, pls do briefly.”

More than half of the respondents are reputable lawyers, but the group represents, we think, a good cross-section of informed society. They include a retired member of the Supreme Court, a former Sandiganbayan justice, an incumbent Cabinet member, two former Malacañang functionaries, a beauty queen-cum brains, a university professor, a public relations practitioner, several prominent businessmen, and a president of a big civic organization.

The aggregate score: Carpio, 25 percent; Bersamin, 11 percent; and the rest 7 percent to 3 percent each.

The “rest” are: Andres Reyes Jr., Diosdado M. PeraltaTeresita J. Leonardo-De CastroAlfredo Benjamin S. CaguioaMarivic M. V. F. Leonen, Francis H. Jardeleza, Noel Tijam,   Estela M. Perlas-Bernabe, Menardo Guevarra, Cesar L. Villanueva, Florin Hilbay, and Jose Diokno. Incumbent justices not listed above got zero mention.

Some of the respondents explained their choices whom they took from the judiciary and outside. A former SC member who knows the system and the nominees quite well gave his top three choices: “Carpio, Carpio, Carpio.”

A businessman explained his choices: Carpio showed impartiality and his being protective of independence of the SC, took a patriotic stand on WPS issues. But he knows it is useless for him to accept his automatic nomination because he won’t be appointed anyway.

Another businessman: Caguioa’s dissent in the Sereno case is bold and stunning. Secretary Guevarra knows the law and has integrity, was with the academe. Former law dean and GCG chairman Villanueva is a brilliant lawyer and academician, into corporate governance, and knows the workings of government.

The PR practitioner: In terms of seniority, quality of decisions, respect of peers, and impartiality, Bersamin is ahead. Had Carpio accepted the nomination, he could have been one of the best even for a brief time (since he is set to retire in October 2019). The other SC justices on the JBC list have spotty records.

Whatever is our individual assessment, however, is immaterial. As outsiders, we are not part of the vetting process, which is political and possibly even personal to the appointing power.

Under the Constitution, the members of the Supreme Court, including the Chief Justice, are appointed by the President from a list of at least three nominees prepared by the Judicial and Bar Council for every vacancy, without need of confirmation by the Commission on Appointments.

Members of the Supreme Court must have proven competence, integrity, probity and independence. They must be natural-born Filipinos, at least 40 years old, with at least 15 years of experience as a judge of a lower court or law practice in the country.

The CV of former Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno does not show her having been a judge but only practiced law for the required number of years. It is like the theory that a Catholic man need not be a priest or a bishop to be chosen as Pope by the cardinals.

The SC justices hold office during good behavior until they reach the age of 70, or become incapacitated to discharge their duties. This is unlike in the United States where Federal Supreme Court justices, appointed by the President and confirmed by the Senate, stay in office for life or as long as they can perform their duties.

• Justices want CJ picked from inside

SUPREME Court justices made known Tuesday their desire that the incoming Chief Justice be appointed from among themselves, narrowing their choice to four colleagues.

The justices nominated four of themselves for submission to the JBC, the seven-member council that will give President Duterte a short list from which to appoint by Sept. 16 the replacement of recently ousted Chief Justice Sereno.

Their nominees were Associate Justices De Castro, Peralta, Bersamin and Reyes. In their voting, Bersamin got 10 votes, De Castro and Peralta, 9 each, and Reyes, two. The justices did not recommend aspirant Judge Virginia Tejano-Ang of Tagum City Regional Trial Court in Davao del Norte.

There are two SC vacancies that the President will have to fill, the second being the seat vacated by Associate Justice Samuel Martires, whom he had appointed Ombudsman to replace just retired Conchita Morales-Carpio.

Duterte has the chance to appoint an SC majority (at least eight of the 15 justices) until the end of his term in 2022 – that is, if the setup is not changed by the revision of the Constitution and if everybody involved stays alive until that year.

As many as 13 justices could end up being his appointees if the stars stayed in their pre-ordained places until 2022. These are the upcoming vacancies in 2018 until 2022, as listed by Rappler, Duterte’s favorite media platform, upon the exit of:

Presbitero Velasco Jr. (retiring Aug. 8, 2018), Maria Lourdes Sereno (recently ousted as chief justice), Samuel Martires (early retirement approved this week after his appointment as Ombudsman), Teresita de Castro (retiring October 2018), Noel Tijam (retiring January 2019), Mariano del Castillo (retiring July 2019), Francis Jardeleza (retiring September 2019), Antonio Carpio (retiring October 2019), Lucas Bersamin (retiring October 2019), Andres Reyes Jr. (retiring May 2020), Diosdado Peralta (retiring March 2022) and Estela Perlas Bernabe (retiring May 2022).

(First published in the Philippine STAR of August 2, 2018)

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