Teodoro: GMA should not appoint next chief justice

Teodoro: GMA should not appoint next chief justice
By Jaime Laude
The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines – Lakas-Kampi-CMD standard-bearer Gilbert Teodoro Jr. says President Arroyo should not name a new chief justice.

Speaking to The STAR editors yesterday, Teodoro said the Supreme Court (SC) can function with just 13 members.

Teodoro pointed out that “if there is no vacancy, there should be no appointment.”

“How could you appoint somebody to a position which is not vacant in the first place?” he asked, adding that the last thing the country needed was another divisive issue so it was better to be prudent.

He said an appointment under such circumstances would also not be good for the appointee, who will always have a cloud of doubt and controversy hanging over him.

The Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) has asked the SC to compel the Judicial and Bar Council to submit to Mrs. Arroyo its shortlist for next chief justice.

The move triggered speculations that the government wants to clear the way for Mrs. Arroyo to name Chief Justice Reynato Puno’s replacement ahead of his May 17 retirement.

Solicitor General Alberto Agra said the JBC does not have the power to defer the submission of its shortlist to the President.

The appointment of a new chief justice is not covered by any election ban, he added.

Meanwhile, former Senate president Franklin Drilon said yesterday the issue is about what the Constitution allows and forbids, not who between associate justices Antonio Carpio and Renato Corona should be named chief justice.

Speaking at the weekly Kapihan sa Manila Hotel media forum, Drilon said Article VIII Section 4(1) of the Constitution provides that any vacancy in the Supreme Court shall be filled within 90 days of the occurrence.

On the other hand, Article VII Section 15 requires that two months preceding the next presidential election and up to the end of his/her term, the President shall not make appointments except temporary appointments to executive positions when continued vacancies will prejudice or endanger public safety, he added.

Drilon hopes that debate would not be a fight between Carpio and Corona because both are qualified to be chief justice.

“There must be correct interpretation of the Constitution,” he said.

Drilon said the Supreme Court has ruled that during the period of the ban under Article VII Section 15, the President cannot make midnight appointments.

“A precedent case in this situation is the 1998 Supreme Court case ‘In Re Appointments of Valenzuela and Vallarta,’ where the Tribunal was confronted with the question of whether, during the period when appointments are banned, the President is required to appoint a Regional Trial Court judge in view of Article VIII Section 9, which mandates that the President shall issue the appointments within 90 days from the submission of the list by the JBC,” he said.

Carpio and Corona are frontrunners in the race for the next chief justice.

Drilon said in 1962, the SC voided 350 appointments President Carlos Garcia had made in December 1961 before President Diosdado Macapagal assumed office.

The SC ruled that the outgoing President was no more than a caretaker administrator whose duty was to prepare for the orderly transfer of authority to the incoming President, he added.

In 1998, President Fidel Ramos allowed his successor President Joseph Estrada to appoint the new chief justice.

Lawyers ask SC to dismiss petition seeking to allow GMA to name CJ

A group of lawyers has asked the SC to dismiss a petition seeking to allow President Arroyo to name the next chief justice.

The National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL) said Mrs. Arroyo is not allowed by the Constitution to name the replacement of Chief Justice Puno before or after the vacancy occurs.

“The President is still prohibited to appoint, since the vacancy in the Chief Justice position will fall within the prohibited period of 60 days before the presidential elections,” read the NUPL petition.

“Such an appointment is referred to as a ‘midnight appointment’, which is expressly prohibited by none other than the Constitution, the highest law of the land.”

The NUPL said waiting for the retirement of Puno is also not an option for Mrs. Arroyo since the vacancy falls on a period covered by election ban on midnight appointments.

“Since the President no longer has the authority to appoint the next chief justice by the time Puno retires, existing rules should be followed in filling up his post, which is the designation of the most senior associate justice of the Court as acting chief justice, until the new president appoints a new chief justice,” read the NUPL petition.

“In (her) desire to appoint a new chief justice, President Arroyo will be transgressing several laws and the Constitution and will also be breaking a long tradition already in place in our judicial system, and will also be encroaching upon the powers and the independence of the judiciary.

“The NUPL will not stand idly while the outgoing president tries to pull another sleight of hand while the country is in the middle of the election turmoil.”

Earlier, lawyers Nestor Leynes III and Christian Robert Lim asked the High court to dismiss the petitions supporting the appointment of chief justice by Mrs. Arroyo.

Integrated Bar of the Philippines-Pasay, Parañaque, Las Piñas and Muntinlupa president Peter Irving also filed a similar petition.

Last Friday, the OSG supported consolidated petitions of the Philippine Constitution Association and lawyers Arturo de Castro and Estelito Mendoza seeking to allow Mrs. Arroyo to name Puno’s replacement.

The case will again be included in the SC’s session today.– Jaime Laude, Helen Flores, Edu Punay

Karen Ang

A plebeian who is trying to make small changes in this world.