Associate Justice Mariano del Castillo, the only senior magistrate to decline his automatic nomination for the position of chief justice, will act as the ex-officio chairman of the seven-member Judicial and Bar Council, which vets judicial appointments.
Justice Secretary Menardo Guevarra, an ex-officio member of the JBC, said that as a matter of practice and tradition, the most senior member of the Supreme Court sits as JBC chairman when all other senior magistrates are vying for the post of chief justice.
The four other senior justices—acting Chief Justice Antonio Carpio and Associate Justices Diosdado Peralta, Lucas Bersamin, and Estela Perlas-Bernabe—all have accepted their automatic nomination for the position.
A junior magistrate, Associate Justice Andres Reyes Jr. also accepted his nomination by retired Sandiganbayan Justice Raoul Victorino for the post--bringing to five the number of candidates for chief justice as of Tuesday. Victorino nominated all 13 incumbent justices of Supreme Court.
Del Castillo earlier declined his nomination for chief justice, citing his retirement in July next year as the reason.
“I foresee that, as chairperson of the 2018 Bar examinations, my work will extend to the months just prior to my retirement. That will leave me not much time to embark on notable projects that a Chief Justice will normally want to have an imprint on,” he said.
The JBC earlier extended the Oct. 15 deadline for nominations for the chief justice post to Oct.26.
The Constitution requires the chief justice, just like the associate justices, to be a natural-born citizen, at least 40 years old, with experience as judge or in private law practice for at least 15 years and a person with proven competence, integrity, probity, and independence.
Duterte is expected to appoint over 10 members of the Supreme Court during his six-year term. He already appointed six justices so far—now Ombudsman Samuel Martires, Noel Tijam, Andres Reyes Jr., Alexander Gesmundo, Jose Reyes Jr. and Ramon Paul Hernando.
Meanwhile, the appointment of Hernando to the Supreme Court has triggered a reorganization of the membership of the SC’s Third Division.
The Court’s First Division is now composed of Associate Justices Lucas P. Bersamin as acting chairman with Associate Justices Mariano C. del Castillo, Francis H. Jardeleza, Noel G. Tijam, and Alexander G. Gesmundo.
The Second Division is composed of Senior Associate Justice Antonio T. Carpio as chairman with Associate Justices Estela M. Perlas Bernabe, Alfredo Benjamin S. Caguioa, Andres B. Reyes Jr., and Jose C. Reyes Jr. as members. Carpio is also acting Chief Justice.
On the other hand, Associate Justice Diosdado M. Peralta is the chairman of the Third Division with Associate Justices Marvic Mario Victor F. Leonen, Gesmundo, Jose C. Reyes Jr., and Hernando as members.
Associate Justices Gesmundo and Jose C. Reyes Jr. are the swing justices to complete the membership in the divisions of five justices each.
The SC resolves cases brought before it either in divisions or as a full court. Among the full court cases are those involving constitutional issues such as presidential proclamations.
Hernando was appointed by President Duterte last week. He took over the post vacated by then Associate Justice Samuel R. Martires who is now the country’s Ombudsman.
There are still two vacancies in the 15-member SC. The vacant posts are for Chief Justice with the retirement of Chief Justice Teresita J. Leonardo-de Castro on Oct. 10, and associate justice, the position left by De Castro when she was promoted to chief justice in August.