Senator Francis Pangilinan in a phone-patched interview over ABS-CBN News Cable or ANC (the audio was so horrible he sounded like he was speaking buried under gravel and sand, anyway), suggested that the Supreme Court justices who would be nominated or who are nominated (i.e., Supreme Court justices who are interested in replacing Chief Justice Panganiban who retires this December) should inhibit themselves in the en banc deliberation this Wednesday on the Cha-cha Sigaw ng Bayan petition. Senator Pangilinan sits in the Judicial and Bar Council, which under the Constitution is tasked with submitting to the President nominees for appointment as justices of the Supreme Court, the Court of Appeals, as Ombudsman, RTC judges, etc.
The JBC is composed of the Chief Justice as ex officio chair, the Justice Secretary, representatives of the House and the Senate as ex officio, a representative of the Integrated Bar of the
Philippines, a retired Supreme Court justice, a representative of the academe, and a representative of the private sector.
What were Senator Pangilinan’s reasons? He said that this was in order to insulate or prevent any Supreme Court justice from being unduly influenced by Malacanang at the present Chacha (charter change) deliberations with a vote in favor of Sigaw’s petition, since as we all know, it is Malacanang who appoints Supreme Court justices including the Chief Justice.
The recent appointments of Malacanang to the Supreme Court: appointments of Lakas partymembers/ politicians, presidential legal counsel, frat brods close to the Firm, etc. over and above those who may be more knowledgeable or steep in practice or theory, show that anytime any day of the week Malacanang would prefer to appoint anybody who has curried favors for it as reward, compromise, or promise, as part of the system of spoils. Anytime.
The suggestion of Senator Pangilinan is a not-so-subtle way of pointing out that at this Wednesday’s en banc deliberation, Malacanang might outbid everybody else for the votes by offering/ promising/ pledging/ mortgaging the position of Supreme Court Chief Justice to the justices in exchange for a favorable vote on Sigaw’s petition (they’re running out of time you know). They could even dangle it to more than one justice. And they could hint at a justice most qualified by reason of seniority, erudition, and academic qualifications, that his hope would be dashed if he voted unfavorably.
That’s way the game has always been played. We played it when it favored us but now that we’re on the other end, we protest. Those members of the JBC are responsible for shortlisting the nominees to the submitted to Malacanang. It is within their power not to include a justice whom they perceive had been compromised, had lost his/ her integrity, independence, his/ her soul. But do they do that? The composition our Supreme Court, the CA, the Sandiganbayan, appointments to the the Ombudsman, we owe in part, in large part, to the JBC. It has become part of the system of spoils, a conduit.
Those of us who endorsed Gloria in 2004, who gave her our block votes, who carried her name in our sample ballots together with our slate, all in exchange for her favor and support, are responsible in large part for the quagmire we are in now. When the Erap loyalists and FPJ supporters take to task those who prosecuted Erap, they do not know that the many whom they are marching with had carried Gloria in their sample ballots in 2004 and gave her a million block votes.
And so, this system of horsetrading, influence-peddling, spoils, continues, and on Wednesday, we pay for it. We pay for it big.
It is not too late. Those members of the JBC should make sure that those justices who, when the ante was upped, named it, are not included in the shortlist of nominees to be Chief Justice. What are the chances of that happening? One in a million? Ask Francis. Ask the person you are marching with. (sorry for this, I’ve seen too many costly horsetrading in the past; have been used in too many of them, I confess. So I hope honest and independent JBC members work on this. They have the power to nominate and not to nominate).