Press Release
August 3, 2009

Arroyo may have violated charter
Palace should not interfere in SC nomination process - Chiz

Opposition Sen. Chiz Escudero yesterday said the Palace should not interfere in the nomination process as the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) voted unanimously to send back the original shortlist of six Supreme Court nominees to President Arroyo.

"She (President Arroyo) is the appointing power but she should not interfere in the nomination process. She has the right not to accept the list but the JBC also has the right and power to send it back. That is what the JBC has done," he said.

Escudero, who is the Senate representative to the JBC, also said he does not think that the President violated any laws by sending the list back to the JBC.

But she might have violated the constitution by not appointing the replacement of Associate Justice Ma. Alicia Austria-Martinez within the 90-day period, said the 39-year old senator, who is a lawyer by profession.

In his column in the Philippine Daily Inquirer, former Chief Justice Artemio Panganiban had described the request of the Palace to "expand the list" to provide President Arroyo with "a wider array of nominees" as an "assault on the JBC's integrity and independence."

"By rejecting all of the six, Ermita virtually accused the JBC of not doing its job, an assault on its integrity. By telling the council to add more names acceptable to the Palace, Ermita challenged its independence. The Constitution clearly placed the JBC 'under the supervision of the Supreme Court,' not under the President," wrote Panganiban.

Under Article VIII, Sec. 8 (1) of the Contstitution, the JBC is a body composed of "the Chief Justice as ex officio Chairman, the Secretary of Justice, and a representative of the Congress as ex officio Members, a representative of the Integrated Bar, a professor of law, a retired Member of the Supreme Court, and a representative of the private sector."

Fr. Joaquin Bernas, Dean Emeritus of the Ateneo School of Law, and member of the 1986 Constitutional Convention which drafted the current Charter, has argued that discretion as to the number of nominees to be submitted for consideration belongs to the JBC, not the President.

Bernas emphasized that "the law gives to the JBC the right to prepare the list, and the choice of the President is limited to what the JBC has prepared."

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