MANILA, Philippines - "Moral grounds" in the issuance of a temporary restraining order (TRO) triggered a heated debate between one of the aspirants to the post of chief justice and one of those whose vote he needed to be appointed.
University of the East Law Dean Amado Valdez caught the ire of Justice Diosdado Peralta, presiding officer of the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC), after he said that the issuance of a TRO by the Court constituted a "moral choice." Valdez faced the JBC on Thursday, July 26.
"Ang sinabi ko, ang judge or justice must make a moral choice. When you give the TRO, it is not just a TRO. Aalis na yun eh (referring to former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo). I don’t want the language of the TRO to be corrupted. If it is a TRO, makakaalis na, then hindi na TRO 'yan." (A judge or justice must make a moral choice. When you give the TRO, it is not just a TRO. The one who sought it will leave. If it is a TRO, she can leave, then it is not just a TRO)," he said.
Valdez stressed that he was referring to the High Court's issuance of a TRO to former President Arroyo in November 2011. The TRO barred the Department of Justice from enforcing its watchlist order against Arroyo and her husband, lawyer Jose Miguel, consequently allowing the couple to leave the country. The government barred them, however.
The issuance of the TRO was one of the grounds cited by the House of Representatives when it impeached then Chief Justice Renato Corona. Corona allegedly "distorted" the SC ruling on the TRO in favor of Arroyo, his former superior (Corona was Arroyo's chief of staff, legal counsel and spokesman when she was vice president and president).
Peralta was one of the 8 justices who voted for the issuance of the TRO.
He said that it will be difficult for judges to decide on petitions for a TRO with "moral grounds" as basis. "Moral choice is not an element" in the Court's decision-making process on TROs, he said.
Fight over fees
Peralta also disagreed with Valdez's assertion that the collection of court fees is "unconstitutional," saying it is a component of the Judiciary Development Funds and the special allowances for judges. These are used by the Court to improve courthouses and provide additional benefits to judges and court employees, according to Peralta.
But Valdez said that if he becomes chief justice, he'll move to make the fees more affordable. "If I become chief justice we have to sit down, discuss it. We have to be reasonable; we have to find middle way," he said.
Valdez also said he aims to see a "bar-less" legal system where not much premium is given on Bar ratings. "Even if a candidate doesn't pass the Bar he can be useful in community," he said.
To strengthen credibilty in the courts, Valdez said "integrity councils" should be created. These councils should be established in regions to serve as mechanisms in assessing the performance of judges.
Valdez was asked if he was already eyeing the post of chief justice when he appeared as an analyst for ANC, the ABS-CBN News Channel, during the Corona impeachment trial. Valdez said no, and added that if he is appointed chief justice he will stop appearing in TV shows. - Rappler.com
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