The Senator in the News
29 November 2006
by Tetch Torres
JBC SUSPENDS PUBLIC INTERVIEW
Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago was the only candidate who arrived for the interview Wednesday, but she also decided to forgo the process.
Senator Francis Pangilinan, a member of the JBC, said following the cancellation of the interview that the panel is faced with three possibilities -- to either declare a failure of the nomination process; urge the justices to reconsider their position and reschedule the public interview; or disqualify the justices and open the nomination process.
Pangilinan said the JBC would discuss the matter in its next meeting Monday.
At the same time, Pangilinan said he was “disappointed” over the non-appearance of the high court justices, namely Senior Associate Justice Reynato Puno; and Associate Justices Antonio Carpio, Angelina Sandoval-Gutierrez, Consuelo Ynares-Santiago, Leonardo Quisumbing.
"I am disappointed. I do highly regard the magistrates. They may have reasons for not appearing but we don't agree with [these]," Pangilinan said.
Senator Santiago, the only nominee who appeared for the interview said she was “surprised by this development.”
“When I first received my invitation for a job interview, I responded affirmatively with alacrity out of an abiding sense of obedience and allegiance not only to the Supreme Court, to the JBC, but to the rule of law in our country,” Santiago said.
“As a former professor of Constitutional Law, I invoke the equal protection clause of the Constitution,” she said.
“Considering that my friendly rivals have decided to waive their privilege of a job interview that if I insist to be interviewed this afternoon, it might put my colleagues and competitors at an unfair disadvantage. If that is the case, then I am also willing to forgo the privilege out of a spirit of collegiality and fairness,” she said.
Meanwhile, civil society groups are apprehensive that the non-appearance of the candidates might create a bad precedent, giving other judges from other courts a reason to snub the JBC.
"The justices, say from the Court of Appeals or the Sandiganbayan nominated for a presiding justice post might imitate them. These are also sitting justices, does it mean they are also exempted from being interviewed?" Alternative Law Group (ALG) Spokesman Marlon Manuel said.
ALG is part of a group of civil society organizations called the Supreme Court Appointments Watch (SCAW).
Manuel added that the non-appearance was also a big blow to outgoing Chief Justice and JBC Chairman Artemio Panganiban's efforts at enhancing the transparency of the appointments process and promoting judicial reform.
"We are very saddened that the justices themselves made the people feel that the rule of law did not apply to them," Manuel said.
“In a country adhering to the rule of law principle, every member of society, even the ruler, must follow the law,” said Manuel.
"Their non-appearance has clearly sent a message to the public: Some could stand above the law and are not answerable to the law. Isn’t it that when people could not follow the law, they are either punished or disqualified? We hope that the JBC could address this matter once and for all otherwise it won't anymore be effective in its mandate," he said.
Labels: Supreme Court