MANILA The five candidates for the post of Chief Justice of the Supreme Court (SC) will walk into the line of fire with their Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) interview set on Thursday.
The post became vacant after Maria Lourdes Sereno was ousted by the SC en banc, voting 8-6, through quo warranto proceedings.
SC Associate Justices Teresita Leonardo-de Castro, Diosdado Peralta, Lucas Bersamin, Andres Reyes Jr., and Judge Virginia Tejano-Ang of the Regional Trial Court Branch 1 in Tagum City, Davao del Norte will be put under questioning by the screening body starting 9 a.m. at the SC Division Hearing Room.
According to an announcement from the SC, Bersamin will be the first to be interviewed in the morning, followed by de Castro and Peralta while Reyes is slated to be interviewed first in the afternoon, to be followed by Tejano-Ang.
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra, an ex-officio member of the JBC, said in a text message sent to the Philippine News Agency (PNA) the JBC will hold its final deliberation and selection for the shortlist of its candidates on August 31.
The shortlist will be endorsed to President Rodrigo Duterte for approval.
The JBC is constitutionally mandated to screen and vet nominees to the President for vacant posts in the judiciary and the offices of the Ombudsman and Deputy Ombudsman.
Three of the applicants de Castro, Peralta, Bersamin were automatic candidates for the post, being among the five most senior magistrates of the High Court.
The three accepted their automatic nomination, making them official candidates for the post while acting Chief Justice Antonio Carpio, who did not apply for the post, will be acting chairman of the JBC. Then Associate Justice Presbitero Velasco Jr., who declined the nomination, already retired last August 8.
Reyes, who accepted the nomination for Chief Justice after being endorsed by former JBC member and retired Sandiganbayan justice Raul Victorino, will also be interviewed by JBC members.
Earlier, majority of the SC magistrates endorsed the appointment of their colleague Bersamin as the next Chief Justice.
Bersamin got 10 votes from the SC en banc, followed by de Castro and Peralta with nine votes each, while Reyes garnered two votes.
The results of the voting will be forwarded to the JBC.
De Castro, Bersamin and Peralta were among the six justices asked by ousted Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno to inhibit from the deliberation on the quo warranto petition filed by Solicitor General Jose Calida, which was eventually granted by the Court in a decision issued last May 11. The decision became final on June 19.
The quo warranto petition sought the nullification of Sereno's appointment as Chief Justice for her failure to comply with the requirements to qualify for the position.
De Castro, Bersamin and Peralta were appointed by former president Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.
Bersamin was first to submit his acceptance of the nomination for Chief Justice. A former Court of Appeals (CA) justice, he was appointed by Arroyo to the High Court on April 2, 2009.
Prior to being a CA magistrate, he was the presiding judge of the Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 96. He will reach the mandatory retirement age of 70 in October 2019.
Peralta, a former Sandiganbayan presiding justice, was also appointed by Arroyo to the SC on Jan. 13, 2009. He penned the ruling allowing the burial of the late president Ferdinand Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani. He will retire in March 2022.
De Castro, the third most senior magistrate of the High Court, was among those who testified against ousted Sereno during the impeachment proceedings at the House of Representatives.
Prior to her appointment to the SC, de Castro served as a law clerk at the High Court, state counsel for the Department of Justice, and presiding justice of the Sandiganbayan. She penned the ruling convicting former president Joseph Estrada of plunder. De Castro is set to retire this October.
Reyes, a former CA presiding justice, was appointed by President Rodrigo Duterte to the SC in July 2017.
He penned a ruling declaring as unconstitutional then justice secretary Leila de Lima's Department Order No. 41, which authorizes the Secretary of Justice to issue Hold Departure Orders, Watch List Orders, or Allow Departure Orders.
The circular was used as basis for imposing a travel ban against Arroyo and her husband Jose Miguel Arroyo, pending the resolution of the plunder and electoral sabotage charges filed against them.
Tejano-Ang, meanwhile, was the judge who issued an arrest warrant against a suspect in the killing of a local radio anchor in September 2014.
She earned her law degree from the Ateneo de Davao, and was also nominated for Judicial Excellence in 2013. (PNA)
Source: Philippine News Agency