JBC petitioner linked to FG

JBC petitioner linked to FG
GOTCHA By Jarius Bondoc
The Philippine Star

Calling Baguio City mayor Reinaldo Bautista Jr.:

Please put a stop to the proliferation of gambling dens in your scenic place. Students in your university town are getting hooked. Same with farmers who bet big after delivering produce from Benguet and Mountain Province. One notorious vice den is an old theater on Dagohoy Street, near the Dangwa Bus terminal, a stone’s throw from Baguio Central University, Saint Louis University, and the University of Baguio (owned by your family, I believe).

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Atty. Arturo M. de Castro seeks to compel the Judicial & Bar Council to nominate a new Chief Justice this early. He has links to Gloria and Mike Arroyo. His son is an Assistant Secretary of Justice, and up to recently his wife worked in Malacañang. He holds office on a floor of a Makati building owned by the First Gentleman. That’s why many in the legal community suspect that the First Couple are manipulating to position a “friendly” CJ before they leave Malacañang.

De Castro’s son Jose Arturo was brought to the justice department by long-serving Sec. Raul Gonzalez, now presidential chief legal adviser. The DOJ website lists Jose Arturo among its top officials. He is a member of the Ateneo Law’s Utopia fraternity, along with Supreme Court Justices Renato Corona and Arturo Brion, both applicants for the CJ post.

De Castro’s wife Soledad Cagampang used to be executive director of the Minerals Development Council under the Office of the President. She reportedly left Malacañang soon after Angelo Reyes became Secretary of Natural Resources.

De Castro has long been holding office at LTA Building on Perea St., Legaspi Village, Makati. He claims to have bought his 7th floor unit in 1983. The 7th and 8th floors are owned by Mike. The only other occupant of the 7th is the administration Lakas-Kampi party; Mike occupies the 8th. The Villaraza Cruz Marcelo & Angangco Law Firm — personal counsels of the Arroyos before a falling out in 2006 — own three lower floors. The Firm’s founder, the most senior SC Justice Antonio Carpio, is also an applicant for CJ, but on condition that the next President makes the appointment.

In a 12-page “taxpayer suit” de Castro asked the SC to make the JBC submit to Arroyo at once nominees to succeed CJ Reynato Puno. Filed on Feb. 8, the petition formally brought to the SC the debate on whether Arroyo can make a midnight appointment during a constitutional ban. Days later lawyer Jaime N. Soriano filed a similar petition. The Philippine Constitution Association and former solicitor general Estelito Mendoza followed suit.

De Castro’s suit prompted Puno to recuse from the SC debates since he is also head of the respondent JBC. Puno is to retire on his 70th birthday on May 17, a week after the automated polls when a President-elect likely would have been proclaimed. The Constitution bars a departing President from making any appointment starting 60 days before a presidential election up to end of term on June 30. But Malacañang spokesmen insist that the President should appoint Puno’s successor in her last 45 days in office. They cite another provision stating that SC vacancies must be filled within 90 days.

The JBC has begun screening applicants for the top judiciary post. But it deferred decision whether to submit a shortlist to the present or next President. Legal opinionists believe that Arroyo’s SC loyalists would sustain De Castro’s petition, paving the way for her to name one of them CJ. She reportedly prefers Corona, who has voted in favor of her and Malacañang in controversial issues. Allegedly sure to be bypassed by her are Justices Carpio and Conchita Carpio Morales, who have maintained independence from the appointer. Arroyo is said to need a CJ-protector from plunder and murder cases sure to be filed against her when she steps down.

De Castro denies that he favors any of the applicants. He says he only wants the SC to rule on the issue any which way. Past SCs had overturned midnight presidential appointments to the executive or judiciary. In the latest, written by CJ Andres Narvasa, it rejected President Fidel Ramos’s naming of two judges on Mar. 30, 1998, during the election ban. Justices Hilario Davide, Artemio Panganiban and Puno, all later to become CJs, had concurred with him.

The JBC likewise has stood its ground against midnight judiciary postings. In May 1998 it refused to nominate to Ramos replacements for vacating Justice Ricardo Francisco. Also in 1992 when CJ Marcelo Fernan resigned to run for Vice President, the JBC did not immediately send a shortlist to Malacañang, which was why Narvasa served as acting CJ.

De Castro hails from Nasugbu, Batangas, in the home district of Executive Sec. Eduardo Ermita. He teaches law at the UP; and used to lecture also at the Ateneo and other law schools. Another son Juan Arturo is also a lawyer; so is daughter Editha Soledad, who notarized the petition.

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“The best advisers are those who listen. The best listeners are those who do so with the heart. They do not merely sympathize but empathize.” Shafts of Light, Fr. Guido Arguelles, SJ

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