Disbarment case ‘can’t disqualify’ Chief Justice bet

NOMINEES for the Chief Justice position should not be denied a chance to vie the post just because they are facing a disbarment case, a senator said.

Some disbarment cases are only used for harassment, Senator Aquilino Pimentel III said, especially in the case of Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, who was put to task for calling then Chief Justice Renato Corona a tyrant who is beyond justice and accountability.

"The disbarment complaint against Secretary de Lima is a classic case of political harassment and meant to deter her from performing her duties," Pimentel said.

The senator asked the vetting body Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) to study the complaints carefully.

Rule 4, Section 5 of JBC excludes applicants from being nominated if they have pending criminal or regular administrative cases, pending criminal cases in foreign courts or tribunals and have been convicted in a case where the penalty was over P10,000 unless granted judicial clemency.

Election lawyer Romulo Macalintal earlier clarified that under existing Uniform Rules on Administrative Cases in the Civil Service, the phrase “pending administrative cases” means there is already a formal charge leveled against a person.

At present, there are already 65 nominees for the Chief Justice post but only 13 nominees have accepted and 12 nominees turned down, including Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr.

De Lima has until July 2 to accept or reject the nomination.

“Technically, she can be disqualified but that will change if her disbarment case is favorably resolved before the (JBC) voting,” lawyer Jose Mejia, the JBC member representing the academe, told Sun.Star.

The justice chief’s case is still with the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP), whose Zambales chapter nominated her to the highest post in the judiciary two weeks ago.

The eight-member JBC will try to submit a shortlist of nominees to President Benigno Aquino III on July 30, giving him less than a month to choose Corona’s replacement.

Corona was removed from office by the Senate impeachment court last May 29 for betrayal of public trust and culpable violation of the Constitution when he failed to report multi-million-peso cash deposits in his asset statement. (Virgil Lopez/Sunnex)

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