Palace on Noynoy threat of protests: Bring it on
By Paolo Romero
The Philippine Star
MANILA, Philippines – Malacañang belittled yesterday the threat of Liberal Party (LP) presidential candidate Sen. Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III to lead massive street protests against a Supreme Court (SC) ruling allowing President Arroyo to appoint the next chief justice.
Presidential spokesman Ricardo Saludo also maintained that Mrs. Arroyo would proceed with the appointment of the successor of Chief Justice Reynato Puno, who retires on May 17.
“She will comply with her duty under the Constitution. The Constitution requires that a Supreme Court chief justice should be appointed within 90 days (upon vacancy) and she will do her part, that one is appointed within 90 days,” Saludo told a news briefing.
“We believe that at the end of the day, the great majority of our people and their leaders will comply with the demands of the Constitution as interpreted by the body that is authorized to interpret it, the Supreme Court,” Saludo said.
“The people want to see the Constitution followed,” he said.
Referring to Aquino’s statements, he said “people will say all sorts of things during campaign period to get into the papers.”
He said it was premature for the Palace to comment on Aquino’s warning of possible impeachment of the Arroyo-appointed chief justice because he may not be elected president.
The SC, meanwhile, warned critics against violating the law in their protest actions.
“Protests are an exercise of the right to assemble. But perhaps they should give the Court a chance and let judicial process take its course. I think the best option at this point is to await the finality of the ruling,” Jose Midas Marquez, SC spokesman, said.
He said the protests could have been instigated by “some sectors trying to undermine the credibility of the court.”
Asked what he considered intolerable protests, Marquez cited as examples the recent egg throwing and photo burning incidents outside the SC building.
“There is what we call maximum tolerance, but we don’t want to make this issue bigger than it is already,” he stressed.
On Aquino’s announcement of his readiness to join rallies to protest the SC decision, Marquez said he respects the senator but argued that many of the “hysterical” protesters have not even read the ruling.
He also laughed off reported death threats on Newsbreak editor-in-chief Marites Vitug who released a book about alleged anomalies involving justices.
“I really find it funny. Don’t you think that’s ridiculous? Can you expect justices to send death threats?” Marquez said.
“I hope that these statements are not made to improve the sales of the book,” he added.
The SC official said he is not in the position to check the veracity of Vitug’s claim. “We would like to leave that to police authorities,” he said.
Aquino also drew rebuke from Nacionalista Party senatorial candidate Adel Tamano who cautioned the LP standard-bearer that he could face contempt for threatening to initiate impeachment proceedings against SC justices.
“As a lawyer and loyal member of the bar, I must caution Sen. Noynoy Aquino that his threat to impeach the members of the Supreme Court may make him liable for contempt and that carries a penalty of imprisonment of 10 days,” Tamano said.
“If he disagrees with the court’s decision on the midnight appointment of a chief justice, the proper course of action is to go through the legal process of appealing the decision and not to threaten the justices with impeachment,” Tamano said.
Tamano also chided former senator Franklin Drilon, who is running for senator under LP, for not giving legal advice to Aquino.
“Mr. Drilon should have counseled him that for a president to impeach a chief justice is to gravely undermine the democratic foundations of government and the rule of law,” he said.
In Pangasinan, Aquino again warned that the SC ruling would further erode the credibility of the justice system.
“The latest decision of the SC has eroded further the credibility of our institutions that protect and promote the rule of law and dispense justice in our country,” Aquino said.
“We have to restore the credibility of our justice system and gain back the trust of our people,” he said.
“The SC decision fits into whatever plan President Arroyo has laid down to maintain power, whether as president or not. But the danger of the decision is far more serious than that,” the LP standard-bearer said.
He also clarified that he never threatened to initiate impeachment against the justices, but merely said there were checks and balances “and impeachment is one of them.”
He also called on authorities to provide security for Vitug.
“She has been a crusading journalist. Let us not let any harm befall her lest it weakens the capacity of the Fourth Estate to keep a check and remind the people of what the people in government are doing,” Aquino said.
JBC list almost ready
Quezon City Rep. Matias Defensor said the Judicial and Bar Council is expected to vote on April 5 or 6 on who should comprise the shortlist of nominees to the top SC post.
“The update on JBC is that we are just continuing the process of nominating. We’re almost on the last stage and by April 5 or 6, we will vote for it,” Defensor, House representative to the JBC, said on the sidelines of the launching of the Gibo Multipliers Movement at the Parks and Wildlife Center.
He said the JBC nominees include SC Justices Antonio Carpio and Conchita Carpio-Morales who are cousins, and Justices Arturo Brion, Renato Corona, and Teresita de Castro and Sandiganbayan Associate Justice Edilberto Sandoval.
Two of the nominees, Carpio and Carpio-Morales, had said they would decline an appointment from Mrs. Arroyo. But Defensor said the two justices should not be removed from the list despite their stand.
“I think personally, they should also be nominated because we cannot preempt President Arroyo. She might not appoint, so the incoming president will be able to appoint,” Defensor said. With Edu Punay, Aurea Calica, Jaime Laude, and Christina Mendez