JBC shortlists 3 senior magistrates for SC chief

MANILA, Philippines – Three high magistrates of the Supreme Court (SC) are on the shortlist of nominees for the highest legal function.

Associate Justices Teresita de Castro and Diosdado Peralta both received six votes on the shortlist of the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) for the position of SC chief justice, while Associate Justice Lucas Bersamin received five votes.

The JBC will present the names of the three candidates to President Duterte. They were previously appointed by the then president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

Since the JBC has only six members, this means that both De Castro and Peralta have the support of all JBC members – SC acting Chief Justice and JBC ex-officio Antonio Carpio, Sen. Richard Gordon, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra, and the three JBC. – regular members stopped with SC Justice Jose Mendoza, Maria Milagros Fernan-Cayosa and Toribio Ilao Jr.

However, one of the JBC members did not vote for Bersamin.

Of the three candidates, De Castro, if elected as the next Chief Judge, would have served less than two months, since on 8 October she will be 70 years old.

De Castro was appointed as SC associated dish on 3 December 2007.

Sources on the board said De Castro, seen as the arch enemy of Sereno, can be appointed as a main course, giving her a chance to serve until her retirement in October.

Added sources Bersamin could take over De Castro.

Peralta, on the other hand, is the youngest of the three candidates who are only 66 years old and would serve four years, if selected. He joined the SC on 13 January 2009.

Bersamin is 68 and could only serve as chief judge for two years. He has been involved with the SC since 3 April 2009.

Among the nominees, Tagum City Davao del Norte, Judge Virginia Tejano-Ang was disqualified after handling an administrative case, Guevarra said.

Andres Reyes Jr., the only legal colleague of SC who has applied for the position, did not make the shortlist. The 68-year-old magistrate is only more than a year after his appointment by President Duterte on 12 June 2017 at the Supreme Court.

Guevarra said the accusation of charges against the seven SC judges who voted for the deposition of former Chief Judge Ma. Lourdes Sereno was not taken into account.

"(The) mere filing of the complaint of the accusation is not sufficient to disqualify It is not yet considered an accusation of prosecution until it is dealt with in the affirmative by the competent committee of the House (of Representatives)," said Guevarra.

All four SC judges who applied for the position of Chief Judge, are confronted with the complaint for complaint filed by Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman.

The seven SC magistrates who voted against Sereno were De Castro, Peralta, Bersamin, Reyes, Francis Jardeleza, Noel Tijam and Alexander Gesmundo.

Lagman, for his part, accused the JBC of acting with "indecent enthusiasm" when nominating De Castro, Peralta and Bersamin for the vacant position of Chief Justice.
"The shortlist was completed by the JBC in less than 24 hours after the aforementioned judges were accused of culpable violation of the constitution and betrayal of public trust, along with four other judges who voted for the deposition of Chief Judge Maria Lourdes Sereno in an irregular and incorrect quo-warranto petition, "he said.

Lagman said the council should have considered the disqualification of the judges in view of the pending charges against them.

"(This is) related or even more serious than an administrative case whose punishment restricts the appointment of an applicant to a judicial position," Lagman said.

"The rationalization that the accusations of rejection have not matured into an ongoing case is flawed, because when filing the aforementioned allegation complaints and before they are dismissed, said allegations of settlement are considered pending, as are unresolved criminal and administrative cases," he added.

Lagman urged the JBC to withdraw its shortlist and reopen the nomination process for the Sereno vacancy.
Meanwhile Castro ordered a "partial reorganization" of the three sections of the Supreme Court with the recent retirement of the company judge Presbitero Velasco Jr.

Carpio signed Special Order No. 2585 for the "partial reorganization of the three sections of the Court and the designation of the permanent members".

With the retirement of Velasco and the recent appointment of SC Associate Justice Samuel Martires to head the Ombudsman, only 13 members remain in the SC.

In the reorganization of the three SC divisions, Associate Justice Diosdado Peralta was appointed head of the First Division with associate judges Mariano del Castillo, Jardaleza and Tijam as members, with Alexander Gesmundo as acting member.

Carpio would chair the Second Division, while Associate Justices Estela Perlas-Bernabe, Alfredo Benjamin Caguioa, Andres Reyes Jr. and Jose Reyes Jr. as members.

Reyes was appointed by President Duterte on 10 August to fill in the position that Velasco left behind when he retired on 8 August.

Associate Justice De Castro has been touched to chair the Third Division. Nominated members are Associate Justices Bersamin, Mario Victor Leonen and Gesmundo as members, with Reyes as acting member. – With Jess Diaz

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