MANILA, Philippines—The Supreme Court has allowed Congress to have two representatives to the Judicial and Bar Council only for the ongoing selection of the next chief justice.
The high tribunal, acting on a joint motion for reconsideration petition filed by the Senate and the House of Representatives, removed the “immediately executory” phrase from its July 17 ruling, which ordered the JBC to allow only one representative of Congress.
“First, it is apparent that an immediate execution of the July 17, 2012 decision poses a possibility that Congress may be left under-represented in the JBC,” the high court said in its ruling Friday.
It said in case the “decision would be subsequently overturned by this court, the right of Congress to be adequately represented in the JBC between now and the final resolution of the petition would have irreversibly impaired.”
Solicitor-General Francisco Chavez has questioned Congress representation to the JBC, saying that the Constitution only allows one representative from both houses of Congress.
Section 8 Article 8 of the 1987 Constitution states that the JBC shall be composed of the chief justice as ex-officio chairman, the secretary of justice, and a representative of the Congress as ex-officio members, a representative of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, a professor of law, a retired member of the Supreme Court, and a representative of the private sector.
The court agreed with Chavez.
But Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile and Speaker Feliciano “Sonny” Belmonte responded to the ruling by announcing that Congress was pulling out of the JBC selection process, arguing that neither Senator Francis Escudero nor Representative Niel Tupas could represent government’s legislative branch.
The ruling will also leave Congress underrepresented in JBC, Senator Joker Arroyo argued during the oral argument Thursday.
“Confronted thereby with the risk of either under-representation or over representation, this court finds it in the best interest of justice that all its present members, including those who in the meantime have inhibited themselves be given the opportunity to take part in the final deliberations and resolution of the petition,” the high tribunal said in its new ruling.
Of the 15 justices of the Supreme Court, six have been nominated for the chief justice post.
“The court finds it more equitable for the present members of the JBC to resume their task of selecting nominees for the vacant position of the chief justice. Accordingly, pending the final resolution of this petition, Senator Escudero and Congressman Tupas Jr, in their capacities as representatives of Congress may simultaneously sit as ex officio members of the JBC and exercise the functions flowing therefrom,” the high court said.
JBC is constitutionally mandated to screen applicants for the judiciary and the Office of the Ombudsman.
During Friday’s special en banc, the high court deferred from issuing a ruling on the motion for reconsideration filed by Congress that sought a reversal of its July 17 ruling.
Acting Chief Justice Antonio T. Carpio and Justices Presbitero J. Velasco, Jr., Teresita J. Leonardo-De Castro, Maria Lourdes P.A. Sereno and Arturo Brion took no part as they were among those nominated by the JBC for the chief justice post.