MANILA, Philippines – A Supreme Court chief justice appointed by President Arroyo is likely to undergo impeachment proceedings if Liberal Party standard-bearer Sen. Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III is elected president.
Aquino made this clear during a roundtable discussion with editors and columnists of The STAR, citing the constitutional prohibition on appointments two months before the May 10 elections and until the end of her term on June 30. He said the law only allows appointments in the executive department in extreme cases.
He earlier said he would not recognize an Arroyo-appointed successor to Chief Justice Reynato Puno, who retires on May 17 or a week after the elections.
“It’s not a question of recognition, but I think I will have to follow the Constitution which says she (Mrs. Arroyo) can’t appoint,” he said.
“If she appoints somebody and I don’t object, then I’m tacitly approving the appointment and going against the Constitution,” he pointed out.
A magistrate who accepts an unlawful appointment may be impeached, he stressed.
“We have an impeachment proceeding, kailangan dumaan siya duon, sana nga hindi na (he has to hurdle it, but I hope it doesn’t come to that).”
When reminded that the SC, composed of 14 Arroyo appointees, might uphold such an appointment anyway, Aquino said he would have no problem with that.
“That’s okay. We’re open to both routes. What is clear to me is when you go to the Constitution, there are no ifs and buts. There’s only one exemption, and these are appointments in the executive department,” he explained.
“Other than that, she’s barred from appointing two months before (the May polls) and up to the end of her term. Everybody seems to have agreed and no one has posed any objection to my interpretation,” Aquino stressed.
Earlier, two senior justices – Antonio Carpio and Conchita Carpio-Morales – said they would not accept an appointment from Mrs. Arroyo.
Rep. Rodante Marcoleta of party-list Alagad said the decision of the two senior magistrates has undermined the independence of the judiciary.
“By refusing to be appointed (by Mrs. Arroyo), they have already breached the cold neutrality of an impartial judge,” Marcoleta said.
“Chances are they will be appointed by the next president. The victim here is the judiciary, where they were instrumental in eroding its independence,” he said.
He also called on Sen. Francis Pangilinan and former Senate president Franklin Drilon to “stop salivating” on the issue. Pangilinan and Drilon belong to LP.
Arroyo and Carpio had a falling out in 2006, when the latter’s law partner then Defense Secretary Avelino “Nonong” Cruz resigned from the Cabinet. Carpio’s senior partner Pancho Villaraza was the President’s lawyer in the initial stage of her administration.
Marcoleta said the “most logical choice or successor” of Puno is Justice Renato Corona, the second most senior magistrate. Corona has accepted the nomination of the Judicial and Bar Council. He is open to an Arroyo appointment.
“It is more likely that Justice Carpio and Justice Carpio-Morales believe that it may be too far-fetched for either of them to be appointed by GMA as possible successor to Puno, hence both openly declined to be named by her to the post,” Marcoleta said.