Time to abolish JBC

“It would even be doubly embarrassing for Carpio after having publicly declined the chance to become the top justice in the High Court, for him to go back on his word.”

Bending the rules was what got the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) in trouble when this council broke its rules to accommodate then applicant to the High Court now ousted chief justice who never was, Lourdes Sereno.

The JBC should by now have learned its lessons in bending the rules, but it seems the JBC is incorrigible when it comes to sticking to the rules.

It was reported the JBC is considering bending its rules on nominations for Supreme Court (SC) chief for acting Chief Justice Antonio Carpio.

The ex-officio member of the JBC, Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra, bared Carpio may still be considered for the top judicial post vacated by Sereno despite Carpio’s reported decision to decline any nomination.

The justice chief said even as the JBC requires nominees to submit their acceptance of nominations to the council, this rule can be waived in the case of Carpio since there is a request by retired Chief Justice Hilario Davide Jr. in a letter to the council.

“The JBC rules require the consent of the automatic nominee. But since there is a request to dispense with such consent, the JBC may have to consider it,” Guevarra said.

This is a lame excuse offered by the JBC to justify waiving the rules again, simply because there is a request to include Carpio despite his having formally declined his appointment.

Why should Davide’s request be enough for the JBC to waive its rules? Who is Davide in the scheme of things for the JBC to come up with exemptions?
Davide’s letter to the JBC in part stated that despite his having declined the nomination, Carpio should still be included automatically, saying “He (Carpio) had earlier been bypassed twice. Delicadeza should no longer be invoked because the decision in the quo warranto case is final. It has become the law of the case.”

Davide added “personal consideration must now yield to the demands of public interest and of the good of the service. (Carpio) should not deprive the President to have the opportunity for a wider field of choice for the best for the (SC) in particular and the judiciary and the people in general.”

That’s enough justification for JBC to waive the rules again?
Should the JBC bend the rules for the inclusion of Carpio, this would then yet be another bad precedent in the JBC’s acceptance and rejection of nominees and the council’s screening process.

Anybody then can insist on the JBC to bend its rules as long as a letter from a retired justice or even a president, or whoever, who wants the inclusion of an applicant of his choice.

This then brings to fore the extreme bending of rules by the JBC in the case of ensuring then applicant Sereno’s inclusion in the submitted list to the then President.

“Why should Davide’s request be enough for the JBC to waive its rules?”

After all, if the JBC is said to be mulling bending its rules by making an exception in the case of Carpio as sought by Davide, the suspicion grows that the JBC was ordered by then President Noynoy Aquino to waive the rules and requirements of the 10-year Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Networth (SALN) of then applicant Sereno.

Sereno, who despite her low marks in her mental tests, was exempted from this requirement and still included in the list.

Why else would the JBC exempt her from the rules?
In the case of Justice Carpio, it may prove to be more embarrassing for him to be included on the list of candidates for the top SC post despite his having formally declined to be included, only for Carpio not to be appointed for the top post.

There is no question, however, that Carpio is highly qualified for the top SC post. He is the most senior justice and will serve only up to next year. It is also usual for senior justices to be automatically included in the list. However, he has publicly declined to be included in the list of senior justices for the top post.

It would even be doubly embarrassing for Carpio after having publicly declined the chance to become the top justice in the High Court, for him to go back on his word.

It is equally embarrassing for Carpio, after giving his reasons earlier for the JBC not to include him in the list, is nevertheless included, with the President appointing him for the top SC post, with Carpio accepting it. He wanted the top post after all and his rejection of the post was just drama.

It may be time for an overhaul of the JBC. Perhaps what is better, should constitutional amendments be made, is to abolish the JBC and return the power of vetting to Congress through its Commission on Appointments.