Carpio declines anew chief justice nomination
By Edu Punay
The Philippine Star
MANILA, Philippines – Supreme Court (SC) Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio reiterated to the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) yesterday that he does not want to be named chief justice by President Arroyo.
Replying to the JBC’s invitation for an interview, Carpio said the Constitution bans Mrs. Arroyo from naming the successor to Chief Justice Reynato Puno, who will retire on May 17.
“I wish to reiterate that I am not interested to be nominated to the said position at this time,” read the letter.
Earlier, the 60-year-old Carpio, the most senior SC justice, accepted his nomination for the post of chief justice on condition that he would be named by the next president.
Justice Secretary Alberto Agra, a JBC member, told reporters they would discuss whether Carpio would be included in the shortlist to be submitted to Mrs. Arroyo.
Members of the JBC are divided on the issue, he added.
Agra said some JBC members believe that those who have signified lack of interest in their nomination should not be included in the shortlist, even if they are qualified.
“Again, all the six nominees were invited for the interview,” he said.
“We are hoping that they will attend. If they don’t, then JBC should meet to discuss what is the implication of such an absence.
“Some of us may think this is a waiver and therefore an abandonment of one’s nomination and acceptance. Some of us may just say regardless of his or her absence, we will still submit the name.”
OSG: Judiciary appointments are not midnight appointments
Appointments in the judiciary cannot be considered midnight appointments because they pass through the JBC, according to the Office of the Solicitor General.
Raising this argument, the OSG asked the SC yesterday to affirm its ruling last month allowing President Arroyo to appoint the next chief justice and extend the exemption to the constitutional ban on midnight appointments to the entire judiciary.
“There can be no midnight appointments when we speak of the judiciary because of the indispensable and deliberate participation of the JBC,” the OSG said.
“No midnight appointments in judiciary since JBC publishes list, accepts complaints, conducts interviews and submits shortlist to the President.”
The OSG also asked the SC to clarify whether Mrs. Arroyo can also appoint judges in trial courts and justices in appellate courts and reverse its 1998 decision on the appointments of Judges Mateo Valenzuela and Placido Vallarta.
“There is merit in the ruling of this Honorable Court that Valenzuela and Vallarta should be reversed,” the OSG said.
“The framers never intended to extend the prohibition contained in Section 15, Article VII to the appointments to the judiciary. Otherwise, they could have explicitly done so.”
Agra, concurrent solicitor general, said the SC could still declare the entire judiciary as exempted from the midnight appointments ban.
“Since the issue is now with the Supreme Court, we believe the Court has prerogative to rule on this,” he said.
The OSG said the JBC’s principal function is to recommend appointees to the judiciary and to prepare a list of nominees for every vacancy from which the President will choose his or her appointee.
“This duty is unqualified,” the OSG said.
“Consequently, it is a ministerial duty which respondent JBC is mandated to perform under the Constitution.
“To be sure, this ministerial duty to submit its list to the President is separate and distinct from its discretionary duty to determine who its nominees will be.
“As regards the latter, it can only be compelled to act, but not act one way or another.”
The OSG said contrary to the claims of critics, the SC did not infringe upon the independence of the JBC, a constitutional body, when it ruled on the petitions.
“The exercise of jurisdiction over these cases is not an infringement upon the independence but an affirmation of the supremacy of the rule of law,” he said.
“The Court was not exercising its power of supervision but its judicial power when it took cognizance of the cases and rendered the assailed decision.
“Such exercise of jurisdiction was proper and entirely within its constitutional duty to settle actual controversies with its exercise of judicial power.”
The case is included in the SC’s agenda for its session in Baguio City today, according to court administrator and SC spokesman Jose Midas Marquez.