MANILA–The Supreme Court (SC) denied with finality the motion for reconsideration filed by the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) on the Judicial and Bar Council’s (JBC) on the scheme of clustering nominees for multiple vacancies in the judiciary.
In a ruling penned by Associate Justice Teresita Leonardo-de Castro dated Feb. 21 but was released on Wednesday, the high court maintained that the appointing power of the President cannot be clipped by such a scheme.
“The declaration of the court that the clustering of nominees by the JBC for the simultaneous vacancies that occurred by the creation of six new positions of Associate Justice of the Sandiganbayan is unconstitutional was only incidental to its ruling that (former) President (Benigno) Aquino (III) is not bound by such clustering in making his appointments to the vacant Sandiganbayan Associate Justice posts,” read the latest ruling.
The SC has also censured the JBC for removing the long-standing rule allowing the SC to submit its recommendations to the JBC before the council votes on shortlist.
“These changes in settled rules and practices recently adopted by the JBC under Chief Justice Sereno are disconcerting,” the ruling stressed.
“There appears to be a systematic move by the JBC, under Chief Justice Sereno, to arrogate to itself more power and influence than is actually granted by the Constitution and this Court, and at the same time, to ease out the Court from any legitimate participation in the nomination process for vacancies in the Judiciary, specifically in the Supreme Court,” it pointed out
The case came about after the SC junked the petitions filed by the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) and several lower court judges questioning the appointments of two junior magistrates in the Sandiganbayan — Associate Justices Geraldine Faith Econg and Michael Frederick Musngi — in January 2016 for alleged violation of the Constitution.
In the petition, the IBP raised that former President Benigno Aquino III violated the constitutional rule in handpicking Econg and Musngi from the same shortlist submitted by the JBC.
It cited Section 9, Article VIII of the Constitution, which provides that “members of the Supreme Court and judges of the lower courts shall be appointed by the President from a list of at least three nominees prepared by the Judicial and Bar Council for every vacancy.”