Monsod: No ambiguity in Charter on midnight appointments
MANILA, Philippines – One of the authors of the 1987 Constitution on Thursday said the Supreme Court erred in its decision granting President Arroyo the power to appoint the next Chief Justice despite the ban on midnight presidential appointments.
Christian Monsod, one of 50 people who drafted the 1987 Charter, said the Constitutional Commission had enunciated a clear policy against presidential appointments 60 days before an election and until the end the president’s term.
He said there is no ambiguity in Article 7, Section 15 of the Constitution on the Executive Department, which says: “Two months immediately before the next presidential elections and up to the end of his term, a President or Acting President shall not make appointments, except temporary appointments to executive positions when continued vacancies therein will prejudice public service or endanger public safety.”
“Where’s the ambiguity in Article 7 Section 15 on the limitations of the presidential appointing power? Where’s the ambiguity?” he said.
Monsod pointed out that this provision even specified that the only exemption to the ban is the appointment to temporary executive positions.
“I think the ambiguity is in the minds of those justices,” Monsod told radio dzMM, explaining that the 1987 Charter has a clear policy banning midnight appointments.
Had the authors of the 1987 Constitution sought to exempt the judiciary from the midnight appointment ban, Monsod said they would have included the exemption in section on the judiciary.
The Supreme Court ruling granting Arroyo the authority to name the next Chief Justice despite the ban on midnight appointments gave weight to Section 4 of Article 8 of the Constitution, which mandates the filling up of vacant positions in the High Tribunal within 90 days.
This provision says: “The Supreme Court shall be composed of a Chief Justice and fourteen Associate Justices. It may sit en banc or in its discretion, in division of three, five, or seven Members. Any vacancy shall be filled within ninety days from the occurrence thereof.”
Monsod also denied that a debate took place among members of the 1987 Constitutional Commission regarding these 2 provisions.
“Wala ho akong natatandaan na ganoon (I do not remember anything like that happened),” said Monsod.
He said the Supreme Court should have upheld the ban on midnight appointments as found in Article 7, Section 15 of the 1987 Constitution.
Despite the pro-Arroyo ruling, Monsod said he still believes the Supreme Court can make an independent ruling in the event there is failure of elections and the issue of Arroyo’s continued stay in power is brought before the high court.
Arroyo’s critics fear that failure of elections may lead to the president holding on to power beyond June 30, 2010.
In case this scenario happens, Monsod believes the so-called “Arroyo Supreme Court” will vindicate itself and abide by the Constitution.
“Baka naman bumaligtad sila (Maybe they will switch sides) when it comes, for example, to the issue of the holdover president,” Monsod said.
He said a Supreme Court ruling on Arroyo becoming a “holdover president” in case of a failure of proclamation by June 30 would be a more critical ruling than the latest SC decision granting Arroyo the power to appoint the next Chief Justice during the election period.
He said groups and individuals who are on a “Supreme Court watch” should exercise restraint and give the present members of the high court the benefit of the doubt that they can make independent decisions.
“Maybe the Supreme Court can vindicate itself on that one,” Monsod said.