JBC to De Castro, Bersamin: What can you do as Chief Justice ahead of retirement?

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, August 16) — Members of the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) on Thursday were curious what Associate Justices Teresita de Castro and Lucas Bersamin could realistically accomplish if appointed Chief Justice with only a few months ahead of their retirement.

De Castro will retire on October 8 upon reaching the mandatory retirement age of 70, while Bersamin will retire in October 2019.

De Castro is the most senior of five candidates vying for the post. She vowed to reorganize the court's Ethics Committee.

"That is the only way complaints against justices can be brought to the court. There should be a grievance machinery within the Supreme Court so we can discipline our own," she told members of the JBC during the public interview.

The JBC screens and recommends nominees to the Judiciary for appointment by the President.

De Castro said court members can tap the ethics body as venue to explain their side. She said with the revival of the Ethics Committee, they will not be allowed to remove a fellow justice, only take disciplinary actions against them.

De Castro is one of the justices who voted in May to permanently oust her rival, Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno.

She has more plans during her possible short stint.

"It's not as if I will only start today. I have been working on judicial reform projects since 2009. If I'm appointed Chief Justice, all I need to do is revive these projects, together with the case management. All we need to do is update," she said.

De Castro said it will take three weeks to update the projects. Once done, it can still be carried out by the next Chief Magistrate.

"Once approved, we can already put the information, communication technology in place and it will gain its momentum," she said.

De Castro has been serving the government for 45 years. She was appointed associate justice in 2007 by then President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

Her fellow Arroyo appointee, Bersamin, also believes he can accomplish a lot in a possible 13-month stint.

"We can do a lot of things in one month, two months... But I think the balance of the time I will have will be more than sufficient for me to introduce innovations and firm up existing programs and activities, and enhance the image of the Supreme Court," Bersamin said.

He said he will prioritize giving more powers to the JBC so they can improve the selection and vetting of candidates for judges.

Bersamin said this is crucial because public confidence, especially those who serve in the rural areas, is "simply eroding."

"JBC will need a lot more muscle to look into the qualifications of the aspirants for judicial positions, especially those who will serve in the provinces and rural areas," he said.

De Castro and Bersamin's fellow associate justices Diosdado Peralta and Andres Reyes Jr. and Judge Virginia Tejano-Ang, presiding judge of the Tagum City, Davao del Norte Regional Trial Court Branch 1, faced the JBC for the public interviews.

Related: Who'll be the next Chief Justice? Meet the five applicants  

The five candidates will also go through comprehensive medical tests, a psychological evaluation, and written evaluative examinations.

To get on the short list, a nominee must get the vote of at least four JBC members. The members will create a short list of Chief Justice nominees on August 17.

The JBC will then submit the short list to President Rodrigo Duterte who will choose the next Chief Justice.

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