Manuel Buencamino: Letter to Sen. Francis Escudero
By Manuel Buencamino
Sen. Francis Escudero, the most loquacious member, ever, of the Judicial Bar Council (JBC) expressed misgivings about the wisdom of the minimum age requirement for Chief Justice. 40.
“Isipin mo, kulang-kulang tatlong dekada uupo ‘yon doon, maliban na lamang kung mamamatay, magkakasakit, o mai-impeach. Ang dapat timbangin ng JBC at ni Pangulong Aquino, gusto ba natin gano’n katagal?”
Oo nga, noh? Hmmm (thinking)…(30 seconds pass)…. scalding hot coffee goes shooting out of my nose. Hence this short letter to the senator from my hospital bed in the intensive care unit for burn victims in St. Lucky’s Medical Center and Sanctuary (SLMCS).
Dear Sir Chiz,
Mawalang galang lang poh pero tinimbang na yan tanong ninyo 25 years ago. Everyone agreed way back then that 15 years experience as a judge in a lower court or as a practicing lawyer, in addition to being a natural-born Filipino between the ages of 40 and 70, meets the minimum requirement for membership in the Supreme Court. Sa madaling salita, if you can become an associate justice at age 40, you can also become a Chief Justice at age 40. Peryod na yan sana but now you’re arguing that the age of a candidate for Chief Justice still merits serious consideration.
“It (age) has advantages and disadvantages, which you really have to consider holistically. If you’re after stability and predictability of decisions of the Court that will last a long time, then perhaps, you might want to go for that [a 40 year old Chief Justice]; if you’re after a new perspective every once in a while and not tie the hands of the next President and be bound by the choice of this President for the next four to five Presidents, that will be subject to the exercise of the President’s wisdom and in a way the discretion of the JBC as well.”
Ang galing mo naman mag-Photoshop. You made stability and predictability, qualities valued by anyone whose horizon extends beyond election cycles, look like chains and you turned flip-flopping or, as you call it, “a new perspective every once in a while,” into a cool glass of reinvigorating freshly-squeezed orange juice.
Let it go, Sir Chiz. Focus on “proven competence, integrity, probity, and independence” and not age. There is no formula to figure out the ideal shelf-life for a Chief Justice anyway. Just deal with the known and the knowable, do not start arguments over the unknowable. Buckle down to the work ahead. You have to go through resumés, do face-to-face interviews, and evaluate inputs from those who have something to say about the nominees.
Your work is very important, don’t trivialize it. President Aquino cannot appoint anyone outside the shortlist of nominees that you will submit to him. Thus, his wisdom is limited by your wisdom, his discretion by your discretion. He cannot rise above your level even if he wants to because it is forbidden by the Constitution. So do your job well or it’s going to be garbage in, garbage out. Kawawa naman kami.
I was going to comment on your proposal that nominees for Chief Justice waive their right to secrecy but Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile beat me to it. He said you’re grandstanding.
“Masyado naman yatang OA ‘yun. It’s like telling the nominee we do not trust him so he needs to waive his right. It’s like telling would-be public servants we do not trust them. Maybe it would be better to just dissolve the republic. There is no hope if we do not trust our elected and appointed officials occupying powerful positions.”
Okay, medyo nag over-react din si Enrile. Sobra nga naman yung “just dissolve the republic.” But essentially he’s right. OA ka talaga because we can have transparency without treating those who want to serve as suspects. But I digress. Let’s go back to the top.
Sir Chiz, your job is to submit a short-list to the president. That’s it. Why can’t you do it QUIETLY for crying out loud? Far too many nostrils get scalded every time you open your mouth.
Still having to breathe through my mouth but hugs and kisses anyway,
PS. SLMC will forward my medical bills to your office. Thanks in advance.
Buencamino is a fellow of Action for Economic Reforms (www.aer.ph).
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JBC looking for ‘Solomonic’ CJ: Chiz
By David Dizon
MANILA, Philippines – Independence, probity and competence aren’t the only criteria that the Judicial and Bar Council should use in choosing the next Chief Justice. According to JBC member and Sen. Francis Escudero, a lawyer aspiring to become the next chief magistrate should also display the wisdom of Solomon.
Speaking to ANC’s Headstart, Escudero agreed with the statement of former Chief Justice Reynato Puno that the next Chief Justice should be a “healing chief magistrate” of unquestionable integrity and probity that will unite the judiciary.
“The closest definition of wisdom that I can look or find would be Solomon. But how do you put these applicants to the test? Buti kung may mga anak yan. Hindi naman lahat mga nanay yan. Hahatiin mo yung bata para patunayan kung sino talaga nagmamahal sa bata,” he said.
In the interview, the senator said wisdom is something that is “difficult to gauge.”
“It’s something that will manifest itself once a situation is presented before him. How exactly do you gauge? How do you look for, how do you identify whether a person has wisdom?” he asked.
Escudero said the JBC will examine closely the track record of the nominees to see who are the most qualified for the post.
He said the next Chief Justice should also be a good administrator since he is the head of an entire branch of government.
“Ang pinagkaiba ng Chief Justice sa Supreme Court justices is – he is the administrative head of the SC. Maybe we should ask them about their administrative experience, if they have ever run an office or if they know how,” he said.
Escudero admitted that the expectations for the next Chief Justice have been set impossibly high because of the impeachment trial and removal of Chief Justice Renato Corona.
He also said he is unsure if the JBC can find someone “iconic”, as suggested by veteran journalist Marites Vitug. He said an unknown could be appointed to the position and then gain respect because of the wisdom of his decisions.
“Sometimes the position carries with it the respect, which, if he is unknown, he would have to earn but initially it will be given by virtue of the title he is holding…He will have to prove himself true to his organization, his people, and the people working for him and under him,” he said.
Next CJ to come from lower court?
One possibility that he broached is that the President appoint a Chief Justice from the lower courts and not the SC.
In the interview, Escudero said judges from lower courts usually apply for the position of Supreme Court magistrate but never for the position of Chief Justice.
He said it is usually incumbent SC magistrates who apply for the position of Chief Justice because the lower court judges do not want to be seen as getting ahead of their superiors.
“Ang nag-apply lang for Chief Justice within the organization puro incumbent magistrates lang kasi tatalunan nga naman nila yung mga bossing nila sa Supreme Court. But to me, that is not sacred,” he said.
Why inhibit himself? Why think he is being arrogant or stepping on the shoes of his bosses in the SC? It should not be a disqualification whether he is a Sandiganbayan, Court of Tax Appeals or Court of Appeals justice? If the material is there, there is no distortion. No wage distortion or organizational distortion,” he added.
Escudero admitted that not all the Supreme Court justices rose from the ranks in the judiciary. Headstart host Karen Davila noted that at least 5 incumbent SC justices “have never been a judge, never written a decision, never handled a courtroom, never heard witnesses speak and never decided on a case” before being appointed to the SC.
The senator said he has proposed a law that will ensure a “ladderized judiciary” wherein judges for higher courts should come from the lower courts. This means that regional trial court (RTC) judges should come from the metropolitan trial courts, while the Sandiganbayan, Court of Tax Appeals and Court of Appeals justices will come from RTC.
However, he said the measure has met opposition from quarters who said appointments in the judiciary will be straitjacketed.
Escudero said ensuring a ladderized justice system would inspire lower court justices that they could be appointed to a higher position. “We have to inspire these judges. We have to bet on them. If they can’t see the possibility of moving up the ranks, then they will do whatever they want,” he said.
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Kim Henares: CJ post not attractive
By David Dizon
Hints at declining nomination
MANILA, Philippines – Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) Commissioner Kim Henares on Thursday hinted at possibly declining the nomination for Chief Justice, saying she and President Aquino share misgivings about her leaving the BIR.
Speaking to radio dzMM, Henares said she and President Aquino had already talked in passing about the possibility that she take over as head of the judiciary.
“Pahapyaw naming napag-usapan. Sayang yung naumpisahan na sa BIR, yun ang agam-agam naming dalawa. Ano kaya ang mangyayari sa BIR…,”she said.
“That is what the President is thinking of and that is what is stopping me,” she added.
In the interview, Henares said she is carefully weighing which position in government she would be most effective. The BIR chief has until July 2 to accept her nomination or it would be considered declined.
She said that as BIR chief, she is tasked with ensuring the collection of correct taxes so that the government has enough money to deliver basic services.
She also noted that her forte is really tax. “It seems that my whole life I was trained to be a tax person,” she said.
Not attractive post
Henares admitted that she is not attracted to the position of Chief Justice, or having the bragging rights of becoming the country’s first female Chief Justice.
She said she joined the government to serve the people by making its institutions work.
The only attraction that she sees in the Chief Justice position is the possible reforms she could institute in speeding up the justice system.
“Yung pagiging Chief Justice, hindi po attractive sa akin. Ang attraction ng pagiging Chief Justice ay yung challenge na mag-ayos, yung challenge na makatulong kasi sa tingin ko malaking kasalanan na ang isang kaso ay hindi na-re-resolve as soon as possible. Sa tingin ko, kalasanan na 10 taon na ang judicial dispute hindi pa sigurado kung ano ang desisyon,” she said.
“If not for that, I would have never even considered thinking about the position of Chief Justice,” she added.
Henares noted there is a golden opportunity to reform the judiciary following the removal of Chief Justice Renato Corona. She said anyone who is appointed to the position of Chief Justice should be not just a lawyer but a manager and psychologist.
“For me, it is not just because you’re young or old but it is really your intent, what’s in your heart and also the capacity and capability of the person. Since you need to do reforms, kailangan hindi ka lang lawyer, kailangan psychologist ka pa. Kailangan manager ka pa. You cannot institute reforms just by yourself. You have to be a psychologist and convince people to join the reform bandwagon. If not, it will not run,” she said.