Sec. 7 Article VIII of the 1987 Constitution requires a Chief Justice to be at a natural born Filipino, at least 40 years old.
The President appoints the CJ from among the 5 most senior Justices and a shortlist of three nominees to be submitted by the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC); based on “competence, probity, integrity and independence”. Traditionally, the most senior Justice is designated Chief although this changed with GMA’s appointment of Corona.
The JBC is composed of 8 members of whom 4 are ex-officio (The Chief Justice as Chairman, the Secretary of Justice, and the heads of the Justice Committees of the House and the Senate) and 4 regular members representing the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, the academe, a retired SC Justice and the private sector.
The 4 regular members of the JBC are appointed by the President with the consent of the Commission on Audit.
The current JBC members are acting CJ Antonio Carpio, DOJ Sec. Leila De Lima, Sen. Chiz Escudero, Cong. Neil Tupas, Milagros Fernan-Cayosa (IBP), Jose Mejia (Academe), Ret. Justice Regino Hermosisima, Jr., and Aurora Santiago Lagman (Private Sector).
The post of CJ does not have the bare knuckles power of the Presidency but it is weightier than the Senate Presidency or House Speakership who have to co-exist in a bi-cameral body. The CJ, for one, has tenure unlike his counterparts in the political branches of Government. The power of the CJ depends largely on his leadership since, to borrow from the Corona defense, the SC is a collegial body in which the CJ is only one of 15 votes.
By tradition and absent any disqualifying factors, Justice Carpio deserves to be the next Chief Justice. He is the most senior member and if not for the midnight appointment of Corona, would have held the position. He is experienced, is technically and administratively competent and his integrity is not in question. Equally important, he is a leader who can drive a pro-active agenda.