Admin congressmen insist GMA can appoint next Sandigan chief
By Delon Porcalla
The Philippine Star
MANILA, Philippines – Four allies of President Arroyo in the House of Representatives are insisting it is lawful for her to appoint the next Sandiganbayan presiding justice, despite an elections ban on appointments.
House Deputy Speaker for Mindanao Simeon Datumanong, a former justice secretary, said yesterday the President may appoint a presiding justice of the Sandiganbayan as provided for in the 1987 Constitution.
“The meticulous ordering of the provisions in the 1987 Constitution clearly implies that the prohibition against appointments in Section 14 Article VII of the Constitution does not apply to the judiciary,” the Maguindanao congressman said.
Likewise, Datumanong said the constitutional requirement for the filling up of vacancies within 90 days is mandatory as the Constitution uses the word “shall.”
“While some justices in the case of De Castro versus JBC opined that their disquisition applied only to the chief justice, there was no majority to this effect,” he stressed.
Another administration stalwart, Baguio City Rep. Mauricio Domogan, said Mrs. Arroyo is legally and urgently required to name the successor of the late Presiding Justice Norberto Geraldez who succumbed to pancreatic cancer last April 4.
“The President is of course allowed to appoint a new Sandiganbayan presiding justice based on Article VII Section 14(1) which provides that any vacancy (in the SC) shall be filled within 90 days from the occurrence thereof,” Domogan said.
Domogan also said that the March 17 ruling of the SC upholding the President’s power to appoint the next chief justice revealed that five of the nine justices who voted had ruled that the exception to the appointment ban extends to the entire judiciary.
For his part, Quezon Rep. Danilo Suarez, chairman of the House committee on oversight, accused the opposition of exploiting the issue of presidential appointment of justices.
“Critics know that there is legal basis for the President to name the successor of Geraldez but they have been misleading the public to attract attention. To these candidates, please stop attacking the President and focus more on your platforms,” Suarez said.
Suarez expressed confidence that the presidential power to appoint a new Sandiganbayan presiding justice would be upheld if challenged in the courts.
Lakas-Kampi spokesman Agusan del Norte Rep. Jose Aquino II said there is legal and urgent basis for the President to name a new presiding justice of the anti-graft court following Geraldez’s demise.
“The immediate appointment of Geraldez’s successor will ensure uninterrupted operations of the Sandiganbayan and ensure speedy resolution of cases against public officers and employees, including those employed in government-owned or controlled corporations,” he said.
“It has the highest degree of responsibility and efficiency and carries out its objective by conducting expeditious trials of criminal and civil cases involving offenses committed by public officers and employees,” Aquino said.