The House of Representatives has asked the Supreme Court (SC) to return its “powers” so that Congress will have a bigger say in judicial appointments.
In a petition for certiorari lodged before the high court, House justice committee chairman Rep. Reynaldo Umali asked the tribunal to reverse its ruling granting Congress only one voting representation in the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC).
Before the SC handed its questioned ruling, the House of Representatives and the Senate each had a representative at the JBC.
The High Court in 2012 said the Constitution provides that Congress will have only one representative and the Court En Banc directed the JBC to reconstitute itself so that only one member of Congress (either from the House or Senate) will sit as a representative in the JBC proceedings in accordance with Section 8(1), Article VIII of the 1987 Constitution.
But Umali in his petition argued that the SC diminished the rights of Congress by reducing the members of the constitutional body tasked to vet nominees to judicial posts from eight to seven.
“Under the present composition of the JBC, Congress is denied full representation. When it is the turn of the Senate to sit in the Council, the House of Representatives is denied representation. Conversely, when it is the turn of the House of Representatives to sit therein, the Senate is the one denied of its right to represent Congress,” he pointed out.
Recently, the JBC voted for nominees to two vacancies in the SC. The council counted the votes submitted by Senate justice committee chairman Richard Gordon because of the six-month rotation in the membership in JBC of the Senate and House of Representatives.
Umali insisted that the Senate and the House should be represented in the JBC.
“Only when both the House of Representatives and the Senate are given an equal vote of one each is there a full recognition of their independent right of representation,” the lawmaker stressed.
If the rotation system is followed, Umali said he would only be able to vote in two vacancies out of the eight vacancies in the six-year term of President Rodrigo Duterte.
The JBC, which screens and vets nominees for vacant posts in the judiciary and the Offices of the Ombudsman and Deputy Ombudsman, is chaired by Chief Justice Lourdes Sereno. The ex-officio members are Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguierre 2nd, Gordon and Umali who shall have a term sharing seat in the JBC.
Retired SC Justice Angelina Sandoval-Gutierrez is the head of the Executive Committee, Jose Mejia represents the Academe, Milagros Fernan-Cayosa represents the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, and retired judge Toribio Ilao represents the private sector.