THE Supreme Court Appointment Watch (SCAW) is urging the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) to keep its promise to conduct public interviews of candidates for the post of Chief Justice. (Download the JBC announcement of the official list of candidates here.)

Chief Justice Artemio Panganiban will reach the mandatory retirement age of 70 on December 7. He was appointed Chief Justice by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo last December.

“It was six years ago when the JBC adopted in its rules that it will conduct public interviews of the candidates. But this did not ever materialize,” said Marlon J. Manuel of the Alternative Law Groups, Inc. (ALG).

ALG is a member of SCAW, which is an initiative of a consortium of civil society organizations that includes the Transparency and Accountability Network, Association of Law Students of the Philippines, Lawyers’ League for Liberty and the Philippine Association of Law Schools.

Public interviews of the three nominees for Chief Justice were cancelled last year, after 12 associate justices wrote to Davide to request for the cancellation of the interview on the following grounds:

  • Since the adoption of the 1987 Constitution, the JBC had never interviewed nominees who were incumbent Justices of the Supreme Court and they believed there was “no sound reason” to depart from this process.
  • The “ostensible reason for interviewing nominees is to find out how they intend to manage or administer the Judiciary,” but the assumption that the Chief Justice is the Chief Executive of the Judiciary is a “gross misconception.” Neither is the Chief Justice the Chief Executive of the SC.
  • The JBC should instead examine the judicial philosophy of the nominees, which are expressed by incumbent justices of the SC in their written decisions, including dissents.
  • Under Section 8(1), Article VIII of the 1987 constitution, the JBC is under supervision of the SC, thus there is “something inherently wrong when members of a subordinate body can accept or reject as nominees of a superior body…on a matter involving the choice of presiding officer…when all nominees come from the superior body.”

Had the public interviews pushed through, the JBC would have interviewed incumbent justices for the Chief Justice position for the first time. One of the candidates, Associate Justice Leonardo Quisumbing, was among the signatories.

Voting 6-1, the JBC granted the associates justices’ request not to conduct the interview, although there were “vigorous and serious objections to the substantive grounds relied upon.” Only Sen. Francis Pangilinan voted to proceed, while the ex-officio chairman, then Chief Justice Hilario Davide Jr. abstained.

The JBC said in a statement that it granted the request solely on the ground that the public interview was moot and academic, as only three candidates had been considered for nomination. The Constitution requires that three names be submitted to Malacañang.

Public interviews were made mandatory by the JBC under section 7 of its rules, which were promulgated on October 2000 during Davide’s term.

Section 1 of JBC Rule 7 states “the interviews for the positions in the Supreme Court, Court of Appeals, Sandiganbayan and Ombudsman shall be conducted in public.”

In September 2002, the JBC promulgated Rule No. JBC 10, to further promote public awareness of the JBC and accessibility of its the proceedings. Section 5 of Rule 10 reiterates that interviews of nominees to the judiciary shall be made public.

Six candidates have been nominated to replace Panganiban. Among them is Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago, whose nomination by the Young Lawyers Association of the Philippines has been criticized by former Senate president Jovito Salonga. Santiago’s confirmation as a candidate has also sparked fears that Malacañang will railroad her appointment in order to assist its efforts at Charter change.

Since the creation of the Supreme Court in 1901, 21 Chief Justices have been appointed. Traditionally, the most senior associate justices have been appointed Chief Justice.

Arroyo’s appointment of Panaganiban, which bypassed Senior Associate Justice Reynato Puno, is only the fifth exception. (view Puno’s statement here)

As Atty. Fred Pamaos has noted in his personal blog, the other exceptions are the following:

  • Chief Justice Victorino Mapa, a former Secretary of Justice, was appointed Chief Justice in 1920 by Governor General Harrison, when the Philippines was still an American colony.
  • Chief Justice Jose Yulo was appointed in 1942 during World War II by General Masami Maeda of the Japanese Imperial Forces.
  • Chief Justices Felix Makasiar and Ramon Aquino were appointed by former President Ferdinand Marcos in 1985 in lieu of Justice Claudio Teehankee.

Teehankee was appointed Chief Justice by former president Corazon Aquino in 1986.

5 Responses to Groups urge public interview of Chief Justice candidates



November 17th, 2006 at 10:13 pm

I’d like to contribute to how our judges are appointed to the bench including the SC justice and it does not involve any interview by anyone…Reason, you do not want to humiliate a prospective Chief Justice or any judge in a public interview, but instead they are vetted by a committe established for such purpose and recommended to the Cabinet. and here how it is done in a very simple way..>>>>

All members of the judiciary in Canada, regardless of the court, are drawn from the legal profession. In the case of those judges appointed by the federal government, which includes the judges of all of the courts apart from those at the bottom of the hierarchy and described generally as provincial courts, are required by federal statute to have been a member of a provincial or territorial bar for at least ten years. Lawyers wishing to become judges must apply to do so and their applications are vetted initially by committees established within the various jurisdictions for that purpose, with the ultimate power of decision residing with the federal cabinet. Analogous systems operate within the respective provinces for appointments to the provincial courts.

All judges in Canada are subject to mandatory retirement. In the case of some of the judges appointed by the federal government, the age of retirement is fixed by the Constitution Act, 1867, at 75. In the case of all other judges, both federally and provincially appointed, the age is fixed by statute, at either 75 or 70, depending on the court.

The independence of the judiciary in Canada is guaranteed both explicitly and implicitly by different parts of the Constitution of Canada. This independence is understood to consist in security of tenure, security of financial remuneration and institutional administrative independence.



November 18th, 2006 at 6:58 pm

It’s interesting to see how other jurisdictions appoint their chief justices and more importantly, how they ensure the independence of these people.

Unfortunately in the Philippines, in order to change the current procedure for appointing people to the Supreme Court it would require amendments to the Philippine constitution. Short of that, we really have to push for an open and transparent process, which includes public interviews. Why would they be embarassed? The public interviews would serve to bring the court closer to the people, because the Supreme Court/judiciary is the least known of the three branches of government. It is the only time for most people to hear from someone who might eventually lead the judiciary. Supreme Courts are not gods that are above public scrutiny.

But under the current set up for appointments, what more can be done to ensure competent, independent people of integrity are appointed to the Bench?



November 23rd, 2006 at 10:57 am

Naykika, is Canada’s vetting committee composition similar to local set-up? If it is, how can we avoid a situation where council members end up jockeying for friends, relatives, law firms partners, business and political associates; for coveted posts?

While I agree that subjecting hopefuls to public interview is a little bit extreme exercise, who vets the final recommending committee such as, our JBC?



November 29th, 2006 at 6:32 pm

funny, nobody among the candidates (except maybe miriam) wants to attend the public interview and the JBC can’t even do something about it. really, how can you force the SC justices to attend such a hearing? i say it’s possible only if the nominees are SC outsiders. the justices have given fairly their reasons above and by saying there is no need for them to be subjected to public interviews since the JBC can just look into their track record and court decisions.

so, what’s going to happen now? will the JBC insist or disqualify all the 5 SC nominees? back to square one then? eventually, the JBC will have to submit names to the president. but i really don’t see an outsider emerging as the new SC chief. i believe it will still come from the ranks of defiant associate justices. unless of course gloria is determined to bastardize the institution and appoint miriam just like what she did to the Comelec and other govt agencies.

this latest exercise proved one thing only, that the council is ineffective and toothless. better send back to the senate or congress (a co-equal body) the power to confirm SC justices.


INSIDE PCIJ » 5 Chief Justice candidates snub public interview

November 29th, 2006 at 10:02 pm

[…] Of the five other nominees, three had already said that they would not attend the interview. Last year, Chief Justice nominee Associate Justice Leonardo Quisumbing, was among 12 justices who asked for the cancellation of public interviews. He was again nominated for the Chief Justice post this year. […]

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