By Rey Panaligan and Jeffrey Damicog
The Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) on Friday nominated Supreme Court (SC) Associate Justices Teresita J. Leonardo de Castro, Diosdado M. Peralta and Lucas P. Bersamin for Chief Justice, the post vacated by Maria Lourdes P. A. Sereno after losing in a quo warranto case last June 19.
De Castro and Peralta each got six votes while Bersamin got five votes from the seven members of the JBC, the constitutional office that nominates appointments to the judiciary.
President Duterte is mandated by the Constitution to appoint Sereno’s replacement within 90 days from June 19 or until September 17.
De Castro is retiring in October this year; Peralta in March 2022; and Bersamin in October next year.
Earlier, Acting Chief Justice Antonio T. Carpio, the most senior SC associate justice, declined his automatic nomination by the JBC and those given by the Integrated Bar of the Philippines and retired Chief Justice Hilario Davide Jr.
Carpio had dissented in the 8-6 voting the SC had in ousting Sereno.
With the appointment of a new Chief Justice from the list of JBC nominees, there would still be two vacancies in the SC – the post vacated by retired Associate Justice Samuel R. Martires who was appointed Ombudsman, and the post that would be vacated by whoever is appointed Chief Justice.
Earlier, the President had appointed Court of Appeals Associate Justice Jose C. Reyes Jr. to the post vacated by Associate Justice Presbitero J. Velasco Jr. who retired last August 8 upon reaching the mandatory retirement age of 70 for members of the judiciary.
JBC sources said the council members took up the issue on the filing of impeachment complaint against the three nominees. But the same sources said the filing of the complaint did not disqualify the three nominees to the post of Chief Justice.
Department of Justice (DOJ) Secretary MenardoGuevarra, ex-officio vice chair of the JBC, said that in his personal opinion “the mere filing of the impeachment complaint was not enough to disqualify since it is not yet considered an impeachment case until it is affirmatively acted upon by the appropriate House committee.”
Published reports stated that several opposition lawmakers filed an impeachment complaint against seven of the eight SC justices who voted to oust Sereno.
Named in the complaint aside from De Castro, Peralta, and Bersamin were Associate Justices Francis Jardeleza, Noel Tijam, Andres Reyes Jr., and Alexander Gesmundo. Ombudsman Martires, who also voted against Sereno, was not named in the complaint since he has retired from the SC.
Reyes also aspired for the Chief Justice post but since his name was not included in the JBC list, it means that he did not get at least four votes from the seven-member council to be nominated.
In the case of regional trial court (RTC) Judge Virginia Tehano-Ang who also aspired to become Chief Justice, Secretary Guevarra said that she was disqualified by the JBC because of “an adverse finding and recommendation on her administrative case.” Guevarra did not give details on Tehano-Ang’s administrative case.
Guevarra also cited “an unwritten rule that a judge cannot apply for a judicial position two levels higher like from municipal trial court to Court of Appeals or from regional trial court to the Supreme Court.”
Guevarra said the shortlist was reached during the voting conducted by the members of the JBC held yesterday.The JBC, which is tasked under the Constitution to screen applicants for the judiciary, held the voting after holding a public interview of all five aspirants last Aug. 16.