MANILA, Philippines - The Supreme Court (SC) has declared as unconstitutional the current composition of the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC), saying Congress can only have 1 vote in the JBC.
Voting 7-2, the SC said the JBC must reconstitute itself so that only 1 congressional representative will sit in the JBC instead of 2.
The decision is immediately executory.
Sen. Chiz Escudero and Iloilo Rep. Niel Tupas Jr. are the representatives of Congress in the JBC.
Seven SC justices voted to uphold former Solicitor General Frank Chavez's petition questioning the JBC's current composition. It agreed with Chavez that the current practice of allowing separate votes for the two members of JBC from Congress violates the constitutional provision, which provides only for seven votes in the council.
The 7 justices who granted Chavez's petition are Jose Mendoza, Diosdado Peralta, Lucas Bersamin, Martin Villarama Jr., Jose Perez, Bienvenido Reyes and Estela Perlas-Bernabe
Two justices - Roberto Abad and Mariano del Castillo - dissented.
Acting Chief Justice Antonio Carpio and Associate Justices Presbitero Velasco Jr., Teresita Leonardo-de Castro and Ma. Lourdes Sereno – inhibited from deliberations and abstained from voting because they are vying for the position of Chief Justice.
Associate Justice Arturo Brion took no part in the vote because he is on leave.
Chiz respects SC vote
Escudero on Friday said he respects the Supreme Court's ruling that Congress is entitled to only one vote in the JBC shortlisting of candidates for Chief Justice of the Supreme Court (SC).
"Tinuruan ako, estudyante pa lamang ako ng law, na anuman ang desisyon ng Korte Suprema, sang-ayon ka man o hindi, dapat respetuhin," he said.
Because of the Court's ruling, each of them may be entitled to only one-half vote. Another possibility, Escudero said, is for the Senate and the House of Representatives to select only one representative to the JBC.
"O baka ang pasya ng Senado at Kamara, huwag munang magpadala hangga't hindi ito nereresolba," he added.
House leaders had said they will question the SC's decision.
Escudero will discuss the matter with Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile over the weekend to plan their next steps.
"We will consult the lawyers of the Senate and the House on how best to tackle the situation," he added.
Escudero also said the Office of the Solicitor General may file an appeal, but that he heard the SC's decision is immediately executory. --With reports from Ryan Chua, ABS-CBN News; David Dizon, ABS-CBNnews.com