The downside of having a young SC chief

The Inbox

By Ellen Tordesillas

As of yesterday, reports said the Judicial and Bar Council, which screens nominees for positions in the Judiciary, for appointment by the President, has received 14 nominations for the position vacated by the recently convicted former Chief Justice Renato Corona.

The latest addition to the growing list are anti-graft crusader Frank Chavez and former Makati representative and writer/TV commentator Teodoro "Teddy Boy" Locsin Jr.

Chavez was nominated by Manuel Baviera of the Whistleblowers Association and Locsin was nominated by lawyer Brigido Dulay and ABAKADA party-list president Jonathan Dela Cruz.

The published names of nominees include Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, Solicitor General Francis Jardeleza, Bureau of Internal Revenue Commissioner Kim Henares and women's rights advocate Katrina Legarda,retired Judge Manuel Siayngco Jr.;University of the Philippines' College of Law dean Raul Pangalangan, Ateneo de Manila University law school dean Cesar Villanueva, Inquirer columnist and former former Laguna Assistant Provincial Prosecutor Marianito Sasondoncillo, lawyer Nepomuceno Aparis,Rafael Morales, a managing partner of the Sycip, Salazar, Hernandez & Gatmaitan law firm.

In addition to the 14, the five most senior justices on the Supreme Court—acting Chief Justice Antonio Carpio and Associate Justices Presbitero Velasco Jr., Teresita Leonardo-de Castro, Arturo Brion and Diosdado Peralta—have been automatically nominated for Chief Justice.

There's one nurse named Jocelyn Esquivel, who had the guts to submit an application for the chief justice position. She is not qualified because the Constitution states that justices of the Supreme Court aside from being a natural-born citizen of the Philippines and at least 40 years of age, he or she "must have been for 15 years or more a judge of a lower court or engaged in the practice of law in the country."

I'm wondering if Esquivel is among the thousands of jobless nurses in the country today. Probably since she is job hunting and the position of chief justice is vacant, what does she lose by sending her application?

I like the spunk of this girl.

Senator Francis "Chiz" Escudero, ex-oficio JBC member as chairman of Senate committee on justice and human rights, said deadline for accepting nominations for chief justice has been set on June 18, Monday. JBC would then publish the names to get the public reaction.

He set the council has set the deadline of July 15 for coming up with a short list of nominees to be sent to the President, who has 90 days from the date the position was vacated (May 30 because Corona was convicted May 29, 2012) to appoint a new chief justice. That means not later than Aug. 28, 2012.

Escudero stressed that the position being filled up now is that of the Chief Justice.

He said if the President appoints any one of the five senior justices, a vacancy would occur among the 14 associate justices. The JBC will then go through again the process nominations and screening of the candidate for the SC position.

Escudero raised a valid concern on having a young chief justice.

The retirement age for members of the Supreme Court is 70.

Since the minimum age is 40, Escudero said, "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?" he asked."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 after that," he said.

On the other hand, he said, "If you're after a new perspective ever once in a while…then that will be subject to the exercise of the President's wisdom."

More than 20 years in the position is too long even for a good chief justice.

Let's continue watching closely this important process in our democracy.