MANILA, Philippines – Supreme Court justice aspirant Midas Marquez on Monday, June 19, told the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) that the decision to bury the late president Ferdinand Marcos at the Libingan ng mga Bayani was "sound" and that Congress need not convene on President Rodrigo Duterte's martial law declaration in Mindanao.
"Congress only needs to convene if they intend to revoke martial law," Marquez told JBC member retired SC Justice Angelina Sandoval-Gutierrez at the opening of the committee's public interviews of applicants eyeing the position of associate justice of the High Tribunal. (LIVE: JBC interviews)
The SC vacancy is for Justice Bienvenido Reyes who will retire on July 6. After Reyes, Justice Jose Mendoza will also retire on August 13. (READ: Who's who: Candidates vying to replace SC justice Bienvenido Reyes)
Currently the court administrator of the SC, Marquez had served as the Tribunal's spokesman during the term of Chief Justice Renato Corona, a position that he left shortly after Corona was found guilty by the Senate, sitting as an impeachment court, of culpable violation of the Constitution.
Marquez was the first to be interviewed on Monday among 8 applicants in the line-up. (READ: JBC starts interviews for next Duterte appointee to the SC)
Asked about his stand on President Rodrigo Duterte's declaration of martial law in Mindanao, and both chambers' decision not to convene to approve it, Marquez said he agreed to the point of view that convening both houses was not necessary.
Marquez said that the SC cannot require Congress to convene in a joint session. Two consolidated petitions filed with the High Court precisely seek the justices' intervention on the matter.
Sandoval-Gutierrez pressed Marquez if he's saying that the SC is powerless, to which Marquez said no, as he cited the constitutional power of the High Court to review the factual basis of martial law.
Responding to that, Sandoval-Gutierrez said if the Congress convenes and determines the factual basis of martial law, then the SC can readily use this as basis for its own ruling.
Another JBC member also asked Marquez to comment on the SC decision in November 2016 granting Marcos a hero's burial.
"I read it, it's a sound decision," Marquez said.
Sandoval-Gutierrez picked up on the issue when it was her turn again, asking the former SC spokesperson to cite his constitutional basis for agreeing to the verdict.
Sandoval-Gutierrez asked Marquez, referring to Marcos: "Do you think he was honorably discharged?"
Marquez said: "He was not honorably discharged."
"Yes he was [discharged], by the people themselves. That's why there was a revolution" Sandoval-Gutierrez said. Marcos was ousted in the 1986 EDSA People Power Revolution.
Marquez also told Sandoval-Gutierrez, upon her asking, that Marcos did not commit crimes.
He was reminded by the retired justice of the late dictator's human rights abuses.
Ilocos Norte detainees
Marquez was also asked about the statement of Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez criticizing the Court of Appeals (CA) for ordering the release of of 6 Ilocos Norte officials. Alvarez has said that Congress can "abolish CA anytime," in response to the appellate court's order for him to explain why he should not be cited in contempt for refusing to set free the officials despite a CA order.
"This has to be studied carefully because Congress has its own rules, they're a co-equal branch," Marquez said.
Sandoval-Gutierrez wanted Marquez to give a definitive "yes or no" answer to whether it's legal for Congress to still detain the officials. But Marquez stayed neutral. He cited Section 2 of Article VIII of the Constitution that says, "No law shall be passed reorganizing Judiciary when it undermines security of tenure of members."
Why pending cases?
Marquez told reporters after the JBC grilling that he was hoping he would not be asked to comment on pending issues.
"Then again I tried to answer as best as I could without really giving my views... but I had to answer," Marquez said.
Marquez said his 7-year experience as Court Administrator will be his edge over nominees, and that his lack of experience as a judge does not make him less qualified.
"I've been with the SC for more than 25 years, I occupied several positions...I spoke for the Court for more than 5 years during its most interesting times. I've gathered enough experience to be a member of the Court," Marquez said.
Marquez added: "We have a lot of justices who never became judges, you have Justice [Marvic] Leonen from the academe. He was never a judge. Even the Chief Justice was never a judge."