Congratulations to the JBC for the concise, civil, intelligent, and professional way it handled the nationally televised screening for a new Chief Justice. The proceedings shed a light on the personalities behind and workings of the most secretive of institutions, our Judiciary. It is ironic that a body tasked with the administration of justice should be so unaccountable, opaque and, by the public admission of practitioners and members alike, corrupt.
On the brighter side, the interviews displayed the depth of well-meaning and competent legal talent in this country. Lawyers universally get a bad rap (“What do you have when a lawyer is buried in the sand? Not enough sand.”), they are ranked second only to bankers, but the interviews made me understand why some lawyers choose to be lawyers and how the law can, dare I say it, be beautiful.
Classified by sector the 20 nominees for CJ are:
1. Associate Justices- Abad, Carpio (most senior and acting CJ), Brion, Leonardo de Castro, Sereno and Velasco.
2. Academe- Deans and former deans Diokno (De La Salle), Pangalangan (UP), Valdez (UE) and Villanueva (Ateneo).
3. Government- Bautista (PCGG Chair), Herbosa (SEC Chair), Jardeleza (Solicitor General), de Lima (DOJ Sec.), and Sarmiento (COMELEC Chair).
4. Private Sector- Cagampang-De Castro, Legarda, Morales, and Siangco.
5. Congress- Zamora.
The Supreme Court has temporarily ruled the JBC can be composed of 8 members, one more than the 7 provided by the Constitution. This mean two things: The Legislature is arguably over-represented in the Council but, perhaps more important, a majority of 5 (out of 8) is now needed to shortlist a candidate versus 4 (out of 7); raising the bar that much higher.
The JBC must recommend at least 3 nominees to the President. There are no Constitutional criteria other than “ independence, competence, probity and integrity”. Here are issues the JBC may consider: