JBC Hunts for New Chief Justice - Will Any of the Nominees Comes Up to the Challenge?

The Judicial and Bar Council of the Philippines is currently interviewing nominees and probable Supreme Court Justice on live television. If not for the much-publicized impeachments of former CJ Renato Corona, we would not have witnessed this once-in-a-blue moon event. We could see how the interview for the top position of the judiciary is so much similar to the way we apply for common job employment. Well, it’s an application for a job for one – and not much more. Except that the position coveted is most sensitive and very important.

Up for interviews today are nominees Presidential Commission on Good Government Chair Andres Bautista, law professor Soledad Cagampang De Castro, Justice Secretary Leila De Lima, human rights lawyer Jose Manuel Diokno, Solicitor-General Francis Jardeleza and Maria Carolina Legarda.

Other nominees will take the hot seat in the next succeeding days. A total of 22 applicants are in the running for the posts. The five most senior associate justices of the Supreme Court were automatically nominated for the top judicial post. They are Senior Associate Justice, now acting Chief Justice Antonio Carpio, Associate Justices Presbitero Velasco Jr., Teresita Leonardo-de Castro, Arturo Brion and Diosdado Peralta.

Among the list of hopefuls, the women nominees seem to be going strong and public approvals seem to favor either Secretary de Lima and/or Legarda. There is now most probability that for the first time, we’d be having a lady chief justice in our folds. Now that should be well worthy for gender development and if we had two lady presidents before, then why not a woman chief justice.

I was a law student before and in fact had a degree completed for it; except that I failed the bar the first and only time I have taken it. Perhaps there is just so much in law that I am so unknowledgeable of that I never gained the license to practice. For example, I had always that belief and information that the position for the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court should always be filled from the roster of associate justice if ever vacated. That should be logical for as sensitive and significant the judicial top position is, experience and familiarity with the work should be primal as condition for appointment. But I was wrong; entirely wrong that perhaps the law could not always be logical.

I have to reread the Constitution for this, with the specific provision of Scetion 7, Article VIII, stating:

(1) No person shall be appointed Member of the Supreme Court or any lower collegiate court unless he is a natural-born citizen of the Philippines. A Member of the Supreme Court must be at least forty years of age, and must have been for fifteen years or more, a judge of a lower court or engaged in the practice of law in the Philippines.
(5) The Council shall have the principal function of recommending appointees to the Judiciary. It may exercise such other functions and duties as the Supreme Court may assign to it.
Indeed, there is no provision stating that the Supreme Court Chief Justice, upon appointment, should be selected from within the members of the college itself.

I could have been so wrong if this were a bar question that I were about to answer. Tsk, tsk…

Despite that how wrong I have been; to my great dismay; I would still reiterate that the top judicial post is so sensitive that experience and familiarity with the activity of judging, in fact as its highest level, should be one qualification that should be taken into consideration.

The present roster of nominees are fraught with personalities of high public profiles, that their neutrality and objectivity, as well as detachment from the issues at hand, could be well suspect.
These issues should well be of great consideration in selecting the next chief justice of the Supreme Court.

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