Palace: Naming CJ will protect post in case of poll protest
By TJ Burgonio
Philippine Daily Inquirer
MANILA, Philippines—Malacañang said appointing a “full-fledged” Chief Justice in an election season would protect the post in the event that any of the presidential or vice presidential candidates filed an electoral protest.
“We do have these elections and, therefore, in the event that the Supreme Court shall have to act as a Presidential Electoral Tribunal, it would be best for a sitting, confirmed, you know, actual, full-fledged Chief Justice to be in charge,” Secretary Ricardo Saludo, Ms Arroyo’s spokesperson, said at a briefing.
Despite arguments by legal experts raising the purported ambiguity of the high court’s ruling, the President will name Chief Justice Reynato Puno’s successor, Saludo said.
“This is a constitutional duty. Assuming that the court’s decision shall be final and executory … whatever the critics might say, whatever doubts it may engender in the minds of certain people, the President shall still have to fulfill her duty. There is no way around it,” he said.
“I don’t know what delicadeza they’re saying,” he added in response to suggestions that the President exercise propriety on the matter. “I do not see a line in the Constitution saying that delicadeza should stop the implementation of the Constitution.”
Besides, Saludo said, appointing the next Chief Justice would preclude a situation where any of the presidential candidates in a protest case could coax an acting Chief Justice to rule in his or her favor with the promise of a permanent appointment later.
“There are some people who have even expressed the concern—this was just mentioned to me; this is not a Palace position—that if the position of Chief Justice is not filled, then we may get into a situation where that position will become a bargaining chip in the event of an election protest,” Saludo said.
“Do you understand what I’m saying?” he asked reporters. “If the position is not filled, the next President will appoint him. Well, [What if] the next President is a subject of protest? Do you understand? I mean, I’m repeating a scenario that others have told me. I don’t know whether that scenario is realistic, but it’s a concern that people have expressed.”
Puno is retiring on May 17, a week after the national elections.
File a motion
Saludo advised critics of the high court’s ruling to raise their arguments in a motion for reconsideration.
Supreme Court administrator and spokesperson Midas Marquez said that those opposed to the ruling had ample time to submit such a motion.
He said Ms Arroyo could only appoint the next Chief Justice on May 17.
“I hope they file [the motion for reconsideration] right away so that a decision can be had right away, and the case can be terminated,” Marquez said during a stopover of the Justice on Wheels in Mati, Davao Oriental.
The IBP-Davao del Sur chapter said it was ready to file a motion for consideration at any time.
Its president, Israelito Torreon, said it was clear that there was a “blanket prohibition” under the Constitution against presidential appointments within the given period.
Saludo said “the good thing is, nobody is saying that they would disobey the ruling.”
He said the government had “a strong case” but that it would be premature for Malacañang to say whether the ruling would be upheld or overturned.
Saludo conceded that it would have been easier for Ms Arroyo to make the appointment if this did not come close to the May 10 elections.
“Well, it’s an important and weighty decision, that’s for sure, and very controversial. Whether it’s the most important decision, well, I cannot read the future. I don’t know what’s going to happen between now and June. But hopefully, there won’t be anything graver than this. I mean, I hope we don’t have some major security crisis,” he said.