MANILA — The Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) on Monday conducted the public interview for the eight of 12 nominees and were grilled on pressing issues such as the burial of former dictator Ferdinand Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani and the declaration of martial law in Mindanao by President Rodrigo Duterte.
The JBC has received 12 nominations and applications for the upcoming vacancy in the SC that would enable President Rodrigo Duterte to name his third appointee to the high court.
SC Justice Bienvenido Reyes is set to retire on July 6, 2017 upon reaching the mandatory retirmement age of 70 for justices.
The applicants interviewed by the JBC are SC Administrator Jose Midas Marquez and Court of Appeals (CA) Presiding Justice Andres Reyes Jr. and Associate Justices Ramon Bato, Apolinario Bruselas, Rosmari Carandang, Stephen Cruz, Ramon Paul Hernando and Jose Reyes.
Marquez, who was the first to interviewed, said that he believes there is no need for Congress to convene in a joint session to deliberate and approve the President’s declaration of martial law in Mindanao.
“They (Congress) will only convene if they intend to revoke or extend the martial law declaration,” Marquez told the JBC.
Article VII, Section 18 of the Constitution states that Congress may revoke the martial law declaration by voting jointly or by a vote of at least a majority of all members of Congress in regular or special session.
At the same time, he stressed that the SC has the power to review the factual basis of the declaration.
“The Constitution is very clear, the President can declare martial law and it is very clear that the SC can look into the declaration. This is a fair issue,” the SC official noted whose nomination was endorsed by the Philippine Judge’s Association.
Marquez also agreed with the majority decisions of the SC allowing former Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile to post bail in his pork barrel plunder case and allowing the burial of the late President Marcos at the Libingan Ng Mga Bayani.
For his part, Reyes, who was also asked about the martial law proclamation, believes it is a power given to the discretion of the President.
“When President Duterte declared it, he must have in possession sufficient factual basis which we do not have,” Reyes said adding that he would grant petitions seeking to convene Congress to review martial law.
Carandang, meanwhile, refused to give her stance on the matted, noting that she believes the President has the power to declare martial law.
When Bruselas was asked about the complaint filed against President Duterte before the International Criminal Court over extrajudicial killings under his war on drugs, he said that the ICC has no jurisdiction over the matter which the government has acted upon.
When asked his opinion on same sex marriage, Bato said that “there is no provision in the constitution that would prohibit gay marriage. The constitutionality of that law, I think, would be the subject of a long discussion.”
Cruz stood pat on the CA’s decision ordering the release of six employees of the Ilocos Norte provincial government despite threats from House Speaker Alvarez Pantaleon Alvarez to file disbarment case against them and to abolish the appellate court.
Cruz, one of the three members of the CA Fourth Division handling the case, insisted that the their issuance of the writ of habeas corpus in favor of the six Ilocos Norte officials was part of its duty.
“We found that the writ should be issued. Again, if we falter because of some threats that will show our weakness as a magistrate. And as I have said a while ago, let justice be done though the heavens fall. If we are wrong, they could always go up to the Supreme Court,” Cruz said adding that he defended the appellate court’s decisions to a writ of habeas corpus and show cause order against House sergeant-at-arms Roland Detabali during his interview by JBC.
When asked about the possible filing of disbarment cases against them by the House leadership, Cruz said he would welcome such action as an opportunity to ferret out the truth.
The four other nominees — CA Associate Justices Japar Dimaampao and Amy Lazaro Javier; Centro Escolar University law school vice dean Rita Linda Ventura-Jimeno; and Pasig RTC Judge Rowena Apao-Adlawan — will no longer face the JBC as they were already interviewed for the two previous vacancies from the retirement of Associate Justices Jose Perez and Arturo Brion in December last year.
All the applicants will be screened by the JBC and the shortlist would be submitted to President Rodrigo R. Duterte.
Last March, President Duterte named his first two appointees to the high court — Associate Justices Samuel Martires and Noel Tijam.
The JBC is chaired by Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, with two ex-officio members — Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II and legislative representatives Senator Richard Gordon and Mindoro Oriental Rep. Reynaldo Umali, who shall have a term sharing seat in the JBC.