Body starts screening chief justice bets

Posted on July 25, 2012

PUBLIC INTERVIEWS of candidates for chief justice began yesterday, with six aspirants grilled by the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC).

Interviewed were Andres D. Bautista, chairman of the Presidential Commission on Good Government; human rights lawyer Jose Manuel I. Diokno; Soledad M. Cagampang-de Castro; Solicitor General Francis H. Jardeleza; family lawyer Maria Carolina Katrina T. Legarda; and Justice Secretary Leila M. de Lima.

First to face the panel was Mr. Bautista, who recommended placing limits to the terms of members of the Judiciary.

“I believe there should be judicial term limits, just as there is in the Executive and Legislative branches of government,” he said.

There is no term limit for justices until their retirement.

Ms. de Castro, 67, expressed confidence that she will be able to implement reforms in the Judiciary even with only three years left before retirement.

Corruption in the Judiciary can be addressed through values formation among stakeholders, including law students, she said.

Ms. de Castro also assured the panel that she can handle the demands of the post based on her doctors’ recommendations.

The JBC grilled Ms. de Lima next, particularly in relation to her purported defiance of the Supreme Court (SC) order that lifted the travel ban she issued against then-president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in December last year.

The Justice secretary stood pat on her position that she did not defy the court ruling since it had not been served when she directed Immigration agents to hold Mrs. Arroyo’s departure. The Bureau of Immigration is under the Department of Justice.

“Orders, in order to be worthy of respect, should really be issued with respect to the rights of parties concerned,” she said. Ms. de Lima acknowledged that other magistrates who have more experience in court might be displaced in the selection process, but the JBC decision should be whether the applicant can do the job, and not whether the person is an outsider or not.

Meanwhile, Mr. Diokno said his lack of experience as a judge or justice would not pose a problem because he has been a litigant for more than two decades.

Should he be chosen as chief justice, he said, he will amend rules on the writs of amparo and habeas data, or court relief involving personal security and safety.

“The chief justice should look into that first and improve where it needs improvement,” he said, explaining that the Judiciary has enough rules to govern cases.

For his part, Mr. Jardeleza proposed a filtering system that will prioritize high-profile cases involving ranking officials and large amounts of money.

As a former counsel for San Miguel Corp., Mr. Jardeleza also vowed to inhibit himself from cases that involve the company.

Lastly, Ms. Legarda cited the concept of fairness and impartiality as issues that she can bring to the court.

She said that while there are corrupt Judiciary members, she is against the “sweeping condemnation of the Judiciary as corrupt as a whole.”

The family law expert also suggested that courts should have more access to the Internet, noting that parties from far-flung areas, requesting extension for time, for example, should be allowed to do so through teleconferencing.

The JBC will be interviewing six additional candidates today, namely SC Justices Roberto A. Abad and Arturo D. Brion; retired judge Manuel Dj Siayngco, Jr.; poll commissioner Rene V. Sarmiento; Rafael A. Morales, a managing partner at Sycip Salazar Hernandez and Gatmaitan Law Office; and University of the Philippines law dean Raul C. Pangalangan.