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Is Mejia qualified for the JBC post?

By NEWSBREAK

MANILA- Jose Mejia, one of the two new appointees to the Judicial and Bar Council, has been known at best only as the classmate of Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa.

Jose Mejia

When news of his appointment came out in early May—he represents the legal academe in the JBC—his association with Ochoa as a classmate at the Ateneo Law School hit the headlines. Mejia told Newsbreak, however, that Ochoa is but a “belated classmate.” “We were classmates only in my fourth year,” he said. They attended some classes together but were not even batchmates, as Mejia graduated in 1985 and Ochoa, in 1986.

Mejia added that he does not see Ochoa much, even if the two are members of the Fraternal Order of Utopia, a fraternity of Atenean lawyers.

Mejia’s batchmate is Budget Secretary Florencio ‘Butch’ Abad, a stalwart of the Liberal Party.

But we learned that it was Ochoa who pushed for Mejia’s appointment.

Public scrutiny of Mejia comes with his new job, which is an important one. The JBC vets nominees to the judiciary and the Ombudsman. Hence, it is expected that the qualifications required of the contenders to the two institutions—probity, integrity, competence and independence—are present in those who make up the Council. (Read: Group pushes live coverage of Ombudsman candidates’ interviews)

Mejia said that in the JBC’s criteria of integrity, probity, competence and independence, he values integrity and probity more.

Is he a “professor of law”?

The question that pundits are now asking is: Is he qualified for the job? The Constitution provides that a “professor of law” should represent the legal academe. In the past, JBC members from the academe were either deans or faculty members of law schools.

Solita Monsod, in a recent column in the Inquirer, “Mejia’s two ‘sins,’” said that the 51-year-old commercial law professor committed the sins of omission and commission. He did not state in his curriculum vitae, as posted in the JBC website, that he taught at De La Salle University College of Business Administration, not DLSU College of Law, which opened only in 2010. (See Mejia’s curriculum vitae here)

What was written instead was that he taught at De La Salle University College of Law and Commercial Law Dept. since 1989.

Mejia admitted that there was a mix-up. “When JBC asked me to submit my CV, I asked my staff to update it to include the law school. I didn’t notice that it was done that way,” he said in a May 21 text message to Newsbreak.

However, as of press time, his CV remains unchanged.

But he does not believe it constitutes intellectual dishonesty or misrepresentation. He claims to be a member of the College of Law faculty, assigned to teach land titles and taxation. However, he has never taught at the law school.

“I was supposed to teach next term a subject that is offered to second year students. But since the law school opened only last year, I could not have taught last year,” he admitted.

Among lawyers we talked to, the common understanding of a “professor of law” is someone who teaches law students and is a member of a law school faculty.

Mejia pointed out that he taught at the Ateneo Law School from 1988-2000.

Monsod also said that Mejia’s name was not on the website of the DLSU College of Law. The law professor explained however, that at DLSU, if you belong to one department and are given a teaching load at another one, it does not mean you will be removed from the roster of the department you originally belong to.

Lack of transparency

What further placed Mejia in the hot seat is the lack of transparency in his selection as a JBC member. Mejia said that somebody from the circle of lawyers who worked for Aquino during the 2010 presidential elections recommended him. Mejia was also a lawyer-volunteer for Aquino in last year’s elections.

Some members of the Philippine Association of Law Schools were surprised to learn of Mejia’s appointment. Earlier, they nominated Antonio Abad, dean of the Adamson Law School, but he has since joined the Legal Education Board. (Read: Race for the JBC)

The lack of a clear process and criteria is also absent in the selection of other regular JBC members, in particular, those who represent the private sector and  the retired Supreme Court justice. The representative for the Integrated Bar of the Philippines is at least chosen from a shortlist that IBP officials vote on.

Mejia will have to go through the Commission on Appointments, which could either raise this as a contentious issue or shrug it off. The commission is composed of 12 senators and 12 House of Representatives members and chaired by Senate president Juan Ponce Enrile.

Public interview

During JBC public interviews for the posts to be vacated by SC Justices Antonio Eduardo Nachura and Conchita Carpio-Morales on June 13 and 19, respectively, Mejia asked the following:

  • What is the applicant’s policy on receiving gifts?
  • How is he or she as a private person?
  • How is he or she as a teacher?
  • What should be improved in the law curriculum?

When it was the turn of former San Miguel Corp. general counsel Francis Jardeleza – who is also vying for the post of Ombudsman – to be grilled, Mejia asked: will you inhibit from cases involving SMC? (Read: Ombudsman search: Ex-SMC lawyer is first to be interviewed)

Mejia, who was appointed to a seat in the JBC until 2014, said he that he deserves to be given the benefit of the doubt. The ultimate litmus test for his credibility as a JBC member, however, is voting for the nominees to the judiciary  and to posts in the Office of the Ombudsman. He will face this test this month, when JBC finalizes its shortlist for the highest court of the land. (Newsbreak)

CATEGORY: Institutions, Justice & Human Rights, Profiles, The Judiciary
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  1. Johnny lin says:

    JBC appointment is partly political. Qualifications must be spelled out clearly. Mejia did not create the rules but he is solely responsible what is written in his CV. If there are some known discrepancies and he fails to make the corrections by the time he casts his vote on the candidates of Ombudsman and SC justice then he is guilty of dishonesty which should disqualify him.

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