Naming new chief justice should be left to next president – Teodoro

Naming new chief justice should be left to next president – Teodoro
By TJ Burgonio
Philippine Daily Inquirer

MANILA, Philippines – Even administration standard-bearer Gilbert Teodoro thinks President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo should let her successor name the new chief justice to avoid undermining the Supreme Court’s credibility.

“If I were in her position, I would not make the appointment given the controversy surrounding the issue,” he said Friday when asked if Arroyo should let the new President appoint the successor of Chief Justice Reynato Puno, who retires May 17.

“It’s a prudential issue,” he added.

Teodoro, a bar topnotcher and holder of a master’s degree from Harvard University, stressed that Ms Arroyo should exercise prudence “in considering whether or not an appointment should be made.”

“I think despite the ruling given, prudence is in the order of the day because we’re talking about the credibility of the institution which is the Supreme Court. I will not even bother to give advice but prudence is the necessary thing,” he told reporters after a forum at the Our Lady of Fatima University campus in Valenzuela City.

Nine of the 15 justices voted to authorize Arroyo to appoint the next chief justice, ruling that the constitutional ban on appointments applied only to the executive branch.

One justice dissented, two said it was premature to rule on this, and three abstained, including Puno.

Law experts have argued that the Constitution was clear that the President could not make any appointment two months before the May 10 elections up to the end of her term on June 30.

Administration senatorial candidate Silvestre Bello III agreed, and said that Arroyo should let her successor name the next chief justice to avoid politicizing the high tribunal.

“It is more prudent for the President to leave the appointment to the next President. Otherwise, it will politicize the Supreme Court. We should not politicize the Supreme Court because it is the remaining bastion of our democracy,” he said in a separate interview at the Fatima University.

Malacañang had said that Ms Arroyo would appoint the next chief justice once the ruling becomes final and executory, as part of her constitutional duty.

Presidential spokesperson Ricardo Saludo stressed that there must be a sitting “full-fledged” chief justice when the Presidential Electoral Tribunal hears any protest case to be filed by any of the presidential or vice presidential candidates.

Bello, who served as justice secretary in the Aquino and Ramos administrations, dismissed apprehensions that the high tribunal would allow Arroyo to stay in power in a “holdover capacity” in case the elections failed.

“The scenario of a failure of election is a no-no. Our country can’t afford a failure of election. The situation might become so irreversible that everybody will reject a failure of election scenario,” he said.

Another senatorial candidate, lawyer Raul Lambino, pointed out that the Constitution does not mention any instance where the President has to stay in power in a holdover capacity.

“I don’t believe that the incumbent President does have that power under the Constitution that she can exercise the principle of holdover. That does not apply in this particular case. The President can only have one term of office,” he said in an interview before the party mounted a motorcade along McArthur Highway toward Fatima University.

“If the President, assuming that she will continue being the President after a failure of elections, that is an extra-constitutional act. It is a violation of the Constitution,” he added.

He also doubted whether the high court would allow this. “There is no way that the Supreme Court can declare such a thing,” he said.

Christian Monsod, a member of the 1986 Constitutional Commission, said the ruling was not “history-changing” because the 14 other justices were appointees of Arroyo.

The bigger issue facing the country was whether the high tribunal would authorize Ms Arroyo to stay on in a holdover capacity if the elections failed, and no president is declared by June 30, he added.

Karen Ang

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