Akbayan joins calls to stop JBC from giving chief justice list to Arroyo

By DateLine Philippines

Party-list group Akbayan has joined the growing numbers of individuals, lawyers’ groups, and retired justices asking the Supreme Court (SC) to dismiss the petitions that sought to compel the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) to submit their shortlist of nominees for the next SC chief justice to President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

The JBC is the principal body tasked to recommend to the President the nominees for the highest SC post that will be declared vacant when current chief justice Reynato Puno retires on May 17.

Akbayan party-list Rep. Walden Bello and Loretta Rosales insisted that there is no reason for the JBC to rush the submission of the shortlist since even without the chief justice, the Court “will have more than sufficient numbers to constitute a quorum with which to do business.”

The group added that the designation of an acting chief justice pending the appointment by the next President of the permanent chief justice is allowed under Section 12 of the Old Judiciary Act or Republic Act 296.

The said provision states that “in case of a vacancy in the office of Chief Justice of the Supreme Court or of his inability to perform the duties and powers of his office, they shall devolve upon the Associate Justice who is first in precedence, until such disability is removed, or another Chief Justice is appointed and duly qualified. This provision shall apply to every Associate Justice who succeeds to the office of Chief Justice.”

Thus, Akbayan said, there is no basis to the assertion that public interest is at risk if no permanent chief justice will be appointed immediate after Puno retires.

The group insisted that President Arroyo no longer has the authority to appoint Puno’s replacement considering that his retirement would fall within the period of the election ban on appointments which will start on March 10.

Meanwhile, the Ateneo de Davao College of Law-Student Council through its president Krisna Samantha Caballero also echoed the same position, saying that there is no urgency to appoint Puno’s replacement considering that an acting chief justice may be appointed from among the incumbent associate justices in the SC, which is an ordinary practice.

“This has always been the ordinary practice in the Supreme Court. More importantly, there is no reason or prohibition that this cannot be done in the present time,” the law students said.

The law students urged the President to observe utmost respect to the Constitution by allowing the next President to appoint Puno’s replacement.

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