Chief Justice and Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) Chairman Maria Lourdes Sereno has been criticized by justices of the Supreme Court after she clipped the magistrates’ voting power on a vacant SC post.
The justices said Sereno disregarded Internal Rules of the JBC and a long-time existing tradition on the power of the SC justices to vote and make their recommendation prior to voting by the JBC on the vacancy.
The JBC on Monday voted on a shortlist of nominees to replace Associate Justice Martin Villarama Jr., who retired last January 16 for health reasons.
In the shortlist were Justice Secretary Benjamin Caguioa, Court of Appeals Presiding Justice Andres Reyes Jr., CA Justices Jose Reyes and Apolinario Bruselas and former Commission on Audit Chairman Gracia Pulido-Tan.
According to an SC justice who talked to The Manila Times on condition of anonymity, Sereno maneuvered not to have any voting at all during the SC’s en banc session last January 12.
It was learned that before the session was adjourned late noon, SC Justice Estela Perlas-Bernabe had questioned Sereno on the voting for the replacement of Villarama.
According to the SC source, the Chief Justice ignored Bernabe.
The Internal Rules of the JBC compel the Chief Justice to give weight to any shortlist.
Rule 8, Section 1 of the Internal Rules states, “Due weight and regard to the recommendees of the Supreme Court. In every case involving an appointment to a seat in the Supreme Court, the council shall give due weight and regard to the recommendees of the Supreme Court. For this purpose, the council shall submit to the court a list of candidates for any vacancy in the court with an executive summary of its evaluation and assessment of each of them, together with all relevant records concerning candidates from whom the court may base the selection of recommendees.”
The Chief Justice is mandated to pick from the top three candidates on the shortlist.
Another source, also an SC justice, texted The Manila Times that Sereno just instructed a JBC regular member, retired SC Justice Angelina Sandoval-Gutierrez, to write a memorandum to SC Justice Antonio Carpio asking individual justices to just comment on, not vote for, each of the nominees.
“How can we make our recommendation [if there is no voting]?” the SC justice said.
President Benigno Aquino 3rd has five appointees already in the High Court: Sereno, Bernabe, Justice Bienvenido Reyes, Justice Marvic Leonen and Justice Francis Jardeleza.
Aquino should have only five appointees in the SC but the early retirement of Villarama paved the way for a sixth one.
Presidential elections, which will be held on May 9, 2016, bar the President from making appointments two months before the polls or on and after March 9, 2016.