Spokesman to SC critics: Read ruling first
MANILA, Philippines – Critics should first read the Supreme Court’s decision allowing President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to appoint the next Chief Justice during an election period before passing judgment, the high tribunal’s spokesman said Thursday.
“Siguro basahin muna nating mabuti, lalo na sa mga bumabatikos ng desisyon. Parang marami sa atin ang hindi pa talaga nakakabasa eh (Maybe we should read it first, particularly those who are criticizing the decision. It seems a lot of people have not yet read the decision),” Supreme Court Spokesman Midas Marquez told ABS-CBN’s Umagang Kay Ganda.
Marquez said the SC magistrates based their decision on two conflicting provisions — Section VII Section and Article VIII Section 4 — of the 1987 Constitution.
Article VII Section 15 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.”
Article VIII Section 4, meanwhile, 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.”
Marquez said the 9 justices who voted to allow President Arroyo to appoint the next Chief Justice explained that Article VII, which bans midnight appointments during an election period, only covers the executive department.
He said that Article VIII, which has jurisdiction over the judiciary, mandates the immediate appointment of a vacant position in the SC and other branches of the judiciary.
“The majority said the election ban is in Article VII, which rules in the executive department and it’s only scope are the executive appointments, not the judiciary,” he added.
Former Ombudsman Simeon Marcelo earlier said allowing President Arroyo to appoint the replacement of retiring Chief Justice Reynato Puno despite the presence of an election ban is “a shocking decision.”
“A lawyer worth his salt knows, when reading the provision of the Constitution, will readily say it is clear that the prohibition [on midnight appointments] is absolute,” Marcelo said during an interview with ABS-CBN News.
He said a previous SC ruling disallowed former President Fidel Ramos to name the replacement of a retired SC justice during an election period.
“If you look at the history of the Vallarta-Valenzuela case, it was a ruling made to set a precedent to cover this kind of situation,” he added.
Marcelo, head of the Philippine Bar Association, said they would ask the SC to reconsider its decision and they would insist in their motion for reconsideration that the judiciary is covered by the election ban on midnight appointments.
Critics have said the appointment of the next chief justice is crucial for President Arroyo because of the expected number of cases to be filed against her when she steps down.
Marquez admitted that the Chief Justice position becomes even more important during an election period because he chairs the Presidential Electoral Tribunal, which handles election cheating complaints in the presidential and vice-presidential races.