On the Impeachment of the Chief Justice: Then and Now

Image says it all.

But just to add more context, checkout this piece written by Norman Bordadora of the Philippine Daily Inquirer in January 2010.

Bernas: Arroyo appointment may destroy SC credibility
By Norman Bordadora
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 01:06:00 01/23/2010

Filed Under: Politics, Judiciary (system of justice)

CONSTITUTIONALIST FR. Joaquin Bernas on Friday warned of an undermined Supreme Court should its justices be made to decide on the contentious issues regarding the appointment of the next Chief Justice.

At a forum to discuss the question of whether President Macapagal-Arroyo, whose term ends in June, can appoint the successor of Chief Justice Reynato Puno, Bernas said it would be risky for the magistrates to deliberate on the matter.

“The very dangerous thing here is to let the Supreme Court … justices fight over this among themselves,” Bernas said.

“This would really destroy the credibility of the Supreme Court,” he said.

The high court is expected to serve as the final arbiter on whether Ms Arroyo will make a valid appointment if she chooses the next Chief Justice when Puno retires on May 17.

The Constitution bans appointments by a President two months before a presidential election and until the presidential term expires on June 30.

Ms Arroyo’s allies say she is authorized to name the next Chief Justice. They maintain that the constitutional prohibition on midnight appointments only covers executive positions.

Her critics argue that she is intent on naming Puno’s replacement to ensure that the Supreme Court is composed entirely of her appointees.

Can appoint without BC list

Bernas is of the opinion that the next President after the May elections should be the one to appoint the next chief justice.

He said that even with the constitutional requirement that a President has to appoint a new Chief Justice within 90 days after the vacancy, the next President still has 45 days to make the appointment when he or she assumes office on June 30.

“The Supreme Court can enjoin the [Judicial and Bar Council] from submitting the list [to Ms Arroyo],” Bernas said when asked what options were available to prevent the incumbent President from appointing the next Chief Justice.

But he noted that Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita and Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile had both expressed the opinion that Ms Arroyo could appoint the next Chief Justice even without a list of nominees from the JBC.

In his column in the Inquirer on Jan. 17, Bernas, one of the framers of the 1987 Constitution, said the President could choose a Supreme Court justice only from JBC nominees.

“Cory Aquino made appointments without a JBC list, as Senate President Enrile correctly recalls, but only when there was as yet no JBC,” Bernas said.

SC can stop JBC

Under the Constitution, the JBC is mandated to screen nominees and applicants to the Supreme Court.

It follows a process that includes submitting a short list of at least three names from which the President chooses an appointee to the tribunal.

The President has 90 days from the start of the vacancy to appoint a replacement magistrate.

At the same forum organized by the Supreme Court Appointments Watch consortium, former Senate President Franklin Drilon said that on its own, the high court could stop the JBC from submitting the shortlist.

Drilon said the high court had supervision over the JBC and in 1998 ordered it not to draw up a list of nominees for the replacement of then Associate Justice Ricardo Francisco until the end of then President Fidel Ramos’ term.
“There was no petitioner in that case. The Supreme Court took it upon itself,” Drilon said.

Not fatal

Bernas said the absence of a Chief Justice would not be fatal to a democracy.
“If you think [the justices] can’t handle it, you are insulting [them],” he said, indicating that an acting Chief Justice would be sufficient to guide the tribunal even through the expected political issues in an election year.

“In my mind, the justices of the Supreme Court should nominate among themselves the acting Chief Justice,” he added.

Bernas said he could not understand what Puno meant when he was quoted in the news as saying that a new Chief Justice should be appointed in an election year.

In the event of an election protest involving the presidency and the vice presidency, Bernas said the high court would become the presidential electoral tribunal, but “he [the Chief Justice] is only one vote.”

He said any person who accepted the post of Chief Justice from Ms Arroyo would open himself or herself to impeachment by the next Congress.

“If the President wants to get rid of a justice, she can appoint him and hope that he accepts the appointment,” Bernas added.

The most senior justice in the Supreme Court is Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, a former presidential legal counsel and ally of Ms Arroyo’s.

Carpio has since decided some cases against the administration’s interests.

Image courtesy, Manuel Buencamino

Cocoy Dayao

Cocoy is the Chief Technology Officer of Lab Rats Technica, a Digital Consulting company that specialises in DevOps, iOS, and Web Apps, E-Commerce sites, Cybersecurity and Social Media consulting. He is a technology enthusiast, political junkie and social observer who enjoys a good cup of coffee, comic books, and tweets as @cocoy on twitter.

Cocoy is also the Managing Director and Editor-in-Chief of the ProPinoy Project.

Cocoy considers himself to be Liberal.