Puno asks critics to respect SC ruling on chief justice issue
Supreme Court Chief Justice Reynato Puno appealed to critics to respect the decision allowing President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to appoint his successor despite a constitutional ban preventing her from doing so.
It is not unusual for the court to revise previously held jurisprudence, Puno told GMA News, breaking his silence over the issue ever since the High Court released its ruling on March 17, 2010.
The latest decision reversed a 1998 ruling and declaring that appointments to the Court are exempted from the election ban.
In 1998, the Supreme Court ruled that appointments of two judges to the regional trial court were covered by the appointments ban and were disallowed.
Under the 1987 Constitution, presidents cannot make appointments during a 90-day period starting two months before election day and ending on June 30.
Puno is due to retire on May 17 upon reaching the mandatory age of retirement of 70.
“Jurisprudence is not irrevocable. It can change depending on the context of the time,” Puno said.
As associate justice in 1998, Puno, alongside two justices who later became Chief Justices — former Chief Justices Hilario Davide, Jr., and Artemio Panganiban — agreed with then Chief Justice Andres Narvasa in saying judges and justices could not be appointed during an election ban.
The High Court then also stipulated that the constitutional mandate for the President to fill in a vacancy in the Supreme Court within 90 days is suspended because of the appointments ban during the elections which occurs only every six years.
Narvasa even wrote former President Fidel Ramos to inform him of this position.
Puno said he could not do the same thing and write to President Arroyo because the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) is named petitioner in the current case.
He had inhibited from the deliberations of the court on the issue.
Asked whether Supreme Court justices were pressured by Malacanang to reverse the 1998 ruling to allow President Arroyo to appoint the next chief justice, Puno said: “Not to me. I cannot speak for the others.”
In a decision penned by Associate Justice Lucas Bersamin, the Court said that the appointments ban only covers appointments to the executive department and not the court and particularly the Supreme Court.
“They would have easily and surely written the prohibition made explicit in Section 15, Article VII as being equally applicable to the appointment of Members of the Supreme Court in Article VIII itself, most likely in Section 4 (1), Article VIII. That such specification was not done only reveals that the prohibition against the President or Acting President making appointments within two months before the next presidential elections and up to the end of the President’s or Acting President’s term does not refer to the Members of the Supreme Court,” the Supreme Court said.
Puno said critics are free to exercise their dissent to this decision but appealed to them to respect the decision and allow history to be the judge if the Supreme Court was correct in its latest ruling.
“We have to respect the decision. The rule of law tells us that this interpretation should be respected. If you disrespect the law every time you don’t agree with it, there will be chaos,” Puno said.
Puno confirmed that the Supreme Court may release the decision on the appeals to the March 17 ruling on Tuesday, April 20, during the Court’s en banc session.
Puno who is also an ex-officio chairman of the Judicial and Bar Council said they would no longer include Associate Justices and cousins Antonio Carpio and Conchita Carpio-Morales from the list of nominees that would be submitted to the President on or before May 17.
The two had said in separate letters to the JBC that they are no longer interested in the position.
“We have to respect their wishes,” Puno said.
There are only four nominees to the position who will undergo a public interview starting Monday.
They are Supreme Court Associate Justices Renato Corona, Teresita de Castro, Arturo Brion and Sandiganbayan Associate Justice Edilberto Sandoval.
At least two of the nominees, Corona and de Castro will serve up to eight years, if chosen as chief justice, exceeding the next president’s term.
The Supreme Court had also said that the next president could not revoke an appointment to the court. – GMANews.TV