By Benjamin B. Pulta
The Daily Tribune
Members of the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) continue to downplay reports placing newly-appointed Chief Justice Lourdes Sereno near the bottom of the barrel in tests meant to gauge the emotional quotient and psychological and psychiatric well being of candidates to the post.
Earlier in the morning, senior justices of the Supreme Court again snubbed the SC flag ceremony, the second time this month, with only four justices attending the rites.
At the JBC, Sereno made it clear to the collegial body that she wants a revamp of JBC policies, which include the psychological or psychiatric tests as a requirement for applicants to take for applicants to take for positions in the judiciary court.
The psychological and psychiatric examinations became controversial after a report showed that Sereno scored a grade of four out of five, with five being the lowest in her psychological and psychiatric examination.
The same report said that Sereno was dramatic and emotional and tended to make decisions based on current moods, and shows depressive markers.
The psychological and psychiatric examination is a requirement under Resolution 009 Rule 6 of the JBC.
Rule 6 provides that “good physical health and sound mental/psychological and emotional condition of the applicant play a critical role in his capacity and capability to perform the delicate task of administering justice. The applicant or the recommending party shall submit together with his application or the recommendation a sworn medical certificate or the results of an executive medical examination issued or conducted, as the case may be, within two months prior to the filing of the application or recommendation.”
Speaking to newsmen, Department of Justice Secretary Leila de Lima,an ex officio member of the collegiate body, said the JBC will still pursue the leakage of the psycholigical and psychiatric exams but stressed that the Constitution does not place a requirement on the psych exam scores.
“The JBC will pursue the investigation on the leakage. We are concerned about the integrity of the JBC processes. Psych tests are supposed to be confidential. The fact that there was a leak means something is wrong somewhere.”
De Lima confirmed that the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) will continue working to plug the leak even as she insisted that a psych exam is not part of the constitutional requirements for the position.
“The Executive Committee along with the Chairman will soon sit down on that and in fact the NBI is willing to assist in the investigation. This psychological test, in the first place, is not a constitutional requirement.”
“Under the premise the process is scientific, that standards are good, are relevant, and are carefully envisioned and crafted, then I would say that the JBC can consider the psychological fitness of an applicant.”
As this developed, another JBC official, Sen. Francisco “Chiz” Escudero said the collegial body is yet to take up the request of SC Associate Justice Arturo Brion who is asking the JBC to publicly disclose the results of his own psych tests which he took when he applied for the chief justice post.
“We did not take it up.” Escudero said referring to Brion’s request adding that they had only deliberated on filling up vacancies throughout the country and the application and nomination for the (vacancy in the SC).”
Escudero declined to comment on the pending request by Brion before the Supreme Court (SC) to compel the JBC to produce the psych exam results of applicants.
“The JBC is under the supervision of the SC, under the provisions of the Constitution. We will cross the bridge when we get there.”
Escudero also doused reports of the investigation on the leakage. “The media have no liability. They are only doing their job. It is the government that is liable, if at all.”
He also confirmed reports that it was the chairman, Sereno, who had suggested a review on whether to do away with psychological exams in the future.
“She did not say that’s what she wants. It’s what had been taken up for review by the JBC . Even the budget and the policies because she wants to be updated as well with the traditions that the JBC has had in the past years.”
“Again, everything and not only that. In fact I said we will be having a workshop to look at everything and make corresponding recommendations to the en banc of JBC,” Escudero added.
However, the senator expressed the belief that the leaked psychological and psychiatric report was no longer relevant.
“As far as we are concerned, there has already been appointed and installed a chief justice. And this is one that we have to move forward on this issue. This (psycho test issue on Sereno) is not important to us. This is just an issue because some were not appointed to the post of chief justice. PNA
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CJ bets’ psych tests to remain confidential
MANILA – The Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) is not keen on heeding demands for the disclosure of the results of the psychological examination and psychiatric evaluation of candidates for the Chief Justice post during the recently concluded search for the replacement of former Chief Justice Renato Corona.
In spite of the formal request of Supreme Court Associate Justice Arturo Brion for a copy of his examination and evaluation reports, the JBC has not budged, insisting that no one from outside the council, not even the candidates, themselves, should know the results.
The JBC position comes amid a growing clamor for the release of the psychological examination and psychiatric evaluation results following a reported leak of newly installed Maria Lourdes Sereno’s alleged score of 4 in the tests in a range where 5 is the lowest rating.
A news daily which obtained the alleged report quoted the following excerpt from the test results: “she (Sereno) is dramatic and emotional . . . and she projects a happy mood but has depressive markers too. There is a strong tendency to make decisions based on current mood thus, outcome is highly subjective and self-righteous.”
Speaking to reporters right after the JBC en banc meeting on Monday, ex-officio member Justice Sec. Leila De Lima said granting the release in favor of one candidate will not stop the others from requesting for theirs as well, which, she said, would defeat the purpose of “confidentiality.”
“I think we will stick by our policy, our rule, na these are supposed to be confidential because that would be endless if we furnish a copy to one requesting party and then yung iba magre-request. What will prevent the others from likewise requesting?” De Lima said.
The requirement for the psychological examination and psychiatric evaluation is contained in Rule 6 (Sound Physical, Mental and Emotional Condition) of the JBC Internal Rules.
While recognizing that the JBC is “under the supervision of the Supreme Court,” Sen. Chiz Escudero, also a JBC member, was non-committal on whether the council shall heed the high court should it decide in favor of Brion’s request.
“We will cross the bridge when we get there,” Escudero said.
Let’s move on
In spite of mounting calls for the JBC to release the results of the psychological examination and psychiatric evaluation of the Chief Justice candidates, Escudero said the matter is no longer an issue with the appointment of Sereno.
“May na-appoint na, may natalaga nang CJ. Ito’y isang bagay na sana’y malampasan na. Hindi ito masyadong mahalaga para sa akin. Isyu na lamang ito bugso ng ika nga, pagkaka-appoint o hindi pagkaka-appoint ng ibang tao bilang Chief Justice. Tapos na yun, dapat mag-move on tayo at sana pagtulungan tulungan nating matulungan ang kasalukuyang CJ,” Escudero said.
Certain quarters are calling on the JBC to release the controversial results invoking public interest, stressing that an applicant’s mental fitness is crucial for the top judicial post considering the weight of the responsibilities that come along with the office and the degree of pressure involved.
Tests may be abolished
The psychological examination and psychiatric evaluation are on the brink of being abolished as JBC members bared Sereno has called for a “retreat” of the council’s executive committee in order to conduct a review on whether the tests are still “effective.” They, however, clarify that the tests are only among the many policies Sereno intends to have revisited.
“All policies and procedures dapat tingnan ang efficacy and effectiveness. I think that is the inventory that the Chief Justice is doing… Isa lang naman yun [psychological and psychiatric tests], pati budget and staffing, paguusapan din,” Escudero said.
The JBC will also push through with its investigation into the alleged Sereno test results leak, possibly with the aid of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI). Some council members, however, point out that the media may not be held accountable for the alleged leak.