JBC conducts public interview of chief justice candidates

The Judicial Bar and Council (JBC) on Thursday, August 16, conducted a public interview on the five candidates for the position of Supreme Court chief justice.

The five candidates for the position are four Supreme Court Associate Justices and a presiding judge. They are Associate Justice Lucas Bersamin,  Associate Justice Teresita Leonardo De Castro, Associate Justice Diosdado Peralta, Associate Justice Andres Reyes Jr. and Judge Virginia Tejano-Ang.

The panel was composed of JBC members Milagros Fernan-Cayosa, Jose Mendoza, Toribio Ilao and Senator Richard Gordon.

The first candidate interviewed was Lucas Bersamin. He was appointed as Associate Justice by former president and now House Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. He was said to retire on October 2019.

Bersamin was asked by JBC member Milagros Cayosa on the increase in the value of his assets. He responded by disclosing the allowance given to him for being a member of election tribunals.

“When you get to be a member of the SET or the HRET, you are given an allowance that is very substantial also, we do not know if that is taxable or not, that impacts on our financial standing,” Bersamin said.

Bersamin also advocated for the enhancement of the power of the JBC for vetting candidates for judgeship positions.

The next candidate interviewed was Associate Justice Teresita Leonardo de Castro. She was appointed also by Arroyo and was set to retire in October this year.

Cayosa emphasized the fact that de Castro will only be in office for six weeks. She said that if ever the “seniority rule” would apply De Castro would acquire the chief justice position.

However, Cayosa also asked what De  Castro will hypothetically accomplish given her short term.

“I believe that it will not be a problem,” De Castro responded. She then revealed her accomplishments in her years in office.

Associate Justice Diosdado Peralta was also appointed by the current House speaker. He will retire in March 2022.

Peralta like Bersamin also received an allowance as a member of the electoral tribunal. Both justices also noted that they receive remuneration when they became chairpersons of the Bar examination Committee. Peralta was chairman of the Bar Committee in 2014 while Bersamin, in 2017.

President Rodrigo Duterte appointed Associate Justice Andres Reyes Jr. He will retire in March 2020. He was asked about the impact of the Supreme Court ouster of Ma. Lourdes Sereno and Renato Corona on officials.

“It’s a wake-up call for us to be always on our toes, and always be adherent to the constitution,” Reyes said.

Davao Judge Virginia Tejano-Ang is the presiding judge of Davao del Norte Regional Trial Court Branch 1 and the lone SC outsider.

Tejano-Ang said that she did not intend to apply for chief justice. She said she wanted to apply for Associate Justice but was surprised to find out she had applied for the vacancy of chief justice.

She said, “Pinaghirapan ko na ito. Nagpa-interview na ako sa inyo. Syempre, pwede na po. Sayang naman po yung effort ko (I worked hard for this. You interviewed me. Of course, it should suffice. It is a shame to put my efforts to waste).”

The JBC wrapped up its interview of the five aspirants for the chief justice post on Thursday afternoon.

Following the Constitution, Duterte has until September 16 to fill the vacancy at the Office of the Chief Justice.

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