MANILA, JULY 18, 2012 (MALAYA) Written by EVANGELINE DE VERA - THE Judicial and Bar Council yesterday started administering psychiatric examinations to aspirants to the post of chief justice.

The exams are part of the JBC’s efforts to implement stricter measures in the screening of candidates, and are in addition to the customary public interviews and other requisites.

The JBC has tapped psychiatrists to interview the nominees one by one at the JBC office at the Supreme Court building. The nominees have until today to take the exams.

Public interviews of the candidates will start on July 24.

The JBC also reminded the aspirants that they have until today to submit other requirements, including their waiver on the confidentiality of their local and foreign bank deposits, an additional requirement imposed by the JBC.

The eight-man panel granted Malacañang’s request for President Aquino to appoint a substitute for Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, who is among the nominees.

The Palace request was made through a July 13 letter sent by Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr. to the JBC.

“The secretary of justice is the sole alter ego and representative of the President in the council and her absence would do away with the equal representation of the executive, legislative, and the judiciary in the council intended by the Constitution,” Ochoa said.

Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said there is no word yet on who would be De Lima’s substitute.

Aside from the secretary of justice, the other members of the JBC are the Supreme Court chief justice as ex officio chair, and the chairs of the Senate and House justice committees as ex officio members. The four regular members come from the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, the academe, the private sector, and a retired member of the Supreme Court.

Sen. Francis Escudero said he and other JBC members reached a consensus to grant the President’s request so as not to deprive the executive of representation, but the other members will vote on Friday to finally resolve the matter.

Escudero said Aquino can appoint anyone from the executive branch whose position is not lower than that of an undersecretary. He said that it can even be Ochoa.

Jose Mejia, the academe’s representative to the JBC, said that since Article 8 of the Constitution states that the secretary of justice should be the representative of the executive in the JBC, the panel suggested that someone from Department of Justice should replace her.

Mejia said the panel will still have to decide on whether Malacañang can appoint someone outside the justice department.

Also yesterday, the JBC allowed Associate Justice Diosdado Peralta to preside over the selection process for the CJ post in view of the SC’s recent ruling in the case filed by a certain Famela Dulay mandating the JBC to allow the President to appoint the next chief justice.

In the same ruling, the tribunal also tasked the JBC to allow the Court’s most senior justice who is not an applicant to the position of chief justice to participate in deliberations on the selection of nominees and preside over the proceedings in the absence of a constitutionally-named ex-officio chairman.

Peralta took over as acting JBC chair after acting Chief Justice Antonio Carpio inhibited following his decision to accept his automatic nomination for the top SC post.

Peralta, although also automatically nominated to the CJ post, declined his nomination.

Carpio, Associate Justices Presbitero Velasco Jr., Teresita Leonardo-De Castro, and Arturo Brion have all accepted their automatic nomination for the said vacant post.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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