Edilberto Sandoval

JBC nominates Corona

JBC nominates Corona
By Edu Punay
The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines – Senior Associate Justice Renato Corona and three other contenders for chief justice are in the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC)’s shortlist to be sent to President Arroyo tomorrow.

The eight-member collegial body led by retiring Chief Justice Reynato Puno decided to submit the shortlist with the names of four candidates – Corona, Supreme Court Associate Justices Teresita Leonardo-de Castro and Arturo Brion, and Sandiganbayan acting Presiding Justice Edilberto Sandoval – following an SC decision last month allowing the President to appoint Puno’s successor.

This developed as the Supreme Court (SC) said yesterday that the President could not appoint a new chief justice until a vacancy is created, which is on May 17.

The statement was issued in reaction to a Malacañang pronouncement that the President would appoint Puno’s replacement before the elections on May 10. A court spokesman said Puno did not intend to retire before May 17.

Corona, De Castro and Brion each got the unanimous nod of members of the JBC with eight votes, while Sandoval got seven.

Apart from Puno, the other members of the JBC are Justice Secretary Alberto Agra, Sen. Francis Escudero, Rep. Matias Defensor Jr., retired SC Justice Regino Hermosisima Jr., University of Sto. Tomas dean emeritus Amado Dimayuga, Justice Aurora Santiago Lagman and Integrated Bar of the Philippines representative J. Conrado Castro.

Castro, who missed the meeting but submitted his vote to Puno before leaving for a vacation abroad, did not vote for Sandoval.

All four nominees submitted themselves to the screening process of JBC and attended the public interview in Baguio City last April 19.

The JBC did not include two other nominees for the post – Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio and Associate Justice Conchita Carpio-Morales –who manifested their lack of interest in the post due to their stand that Mrs. Arroyo is not allowed by the Constitution to make the appointment.

In a press conference, SC spokesman Midas Marquez explained that the JBC opted to submit the shortlist to the Palace on May 5 so as to give the Philippine Bar Association (PBA) a chance to pursue its second appeal on the March 17 ruling of SC in today’s last full court session before the magistrates take a recess for the elections next week.

“The JBC is bending backwards for PBA. But the JBC can’t wait forever. If they failed to file that second motion for reconsideration before 9 a.m. or if it would be noted without action, then the JBC will submit the shortlist on Wednesday,” he stressed.

“The JBC does not see the need to delay these proceedings any further,” he added.

Marquez also rebuffed a reported statement of the Palace that Mrs. Arroyo would make the appointment before the automated elections on May 10.

“I don’t see how a chief justice can be appointed when the position is not yet vacant. There can’t be two chief justices at the same time. When there’s no vacancy there can be no appointment made,” he stressed.

The SC official also assured the public that Puno would not leave the SC until his retirement on May 17.

“Whoever will succeed can’t even take his oath while the retiring chief justice is still around,” added Marquez.

However, he admitted that the period for the appointment by Mrs. Arroyo was not touched in the SC ruling because “it was not an issue.”

Marquez said he does not know what the basis of deputy presidential spokesman Gary Olivar was in suggesting the appointment of the next chief justice before election day: “We leave it up to them.”

In a decision last March 17, the SC ruled that positions in the High Court are exempted from the ban on midnight appointments under Article VII Section 15 of the Charter, giving Mrs. Arroyo the power to name the successor of Puno.

The Court, in a resolution last April 20, affirmed this ruling and junked motions for reconsideration filed by parties. Marquez said this made the SC decision final.

GMA to act quickly on shortlist

Meanwhile, President Arroyo would act quickly on the shortlist of candidates for chief justice once it is submitted by the JBC, Malacañang said yesterday.

Olivar also said Mrs. Arroyo would not be affected by last-ditch attempts to stop her from naming the successor of Chief Justice Puno.

“Since all four names have been floated for a while now, this has given the President a head start in arriving at a well-considered choice from among these eminently qualified candidates,” Olivar told a news briefing.

“We can expect a decision soon,” he said.

He said ideally Puno’s successor should be named before the elections this coming Monday because of the possible filing of electoral protests before the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET) that would be headed by the chief justice.

Olivar hit the groups planning to file another motion for reconsideration before the SC, saying they could have some hidden agenda.

“Why are they insisting (on blocking Mrs. Arroyo to appoint the chief justice) when the SC already ruled twice against them? She is stepping down so there is no debt of gratitude. Maybe they want to install their own chief justice who will be indebted to them,” he said.

SC will be tainted if GMA appoints next CJ

Rep. Satur Ocampo of the militant party-list group Bayan Muna yesterday said that the SC will be tainted if President Arroyo appoints next chief justice.

He said people would call the tribunal an “Arroyo Court.”

Ocampo lamented that the JBC, which is supposed to be an independent body, apparently gave in to the prodding of Malacañang for it to submit its shortlist of nominees for the next chief justice.

“Mrs. Arroyo will appoint anyone who will have a debt of gratitude to her and her administration and hence shield her from legal accountability when the time comes for her to face charges for her crimes committed in office,” he said.

Even if Carpio is included in the JBC list, there are speculations that Mrs. Arroyo prefers Corona to him. Carpio wrote the October 2006 court decision junking the administration’s Charter change campaign through the people’s initiative mode, labeling it as a “gigantic fraud” and a “grand deception.”

Several groups, including lawyers’ organizations, have urged Corona to back out of the nomination process for next chief justice because of his close association with Mrs. Arroyo and the fact that his wife has been appointed by the President as an officer in a state corporation.

Meanwhile, Bagumbayan presidential bet Sen. Richard Gordon yesterday said that although he personally does not agree with the appointment of the new chief justice by Mrs. Arroyo before she steps down next month, he respects the decision of the SC.

PMP Senate bets tell GMA to give successor chance to appoint new CJ

Meanwhile, four senatorial candidates of the Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino (PMP) yesterday said that President Arroyo should give the next president the chance to appoint a new chief justice.

In an interview with STAR editors, lawyer JV Bautista said there is a need for a “new dispensation” both in the national government and the Supreme Court.

Bautista, running under President Estrada’s political party PMP, said the justices of the High Court who signed the resolution favoring the contention that Arroyo has the authority to appoint the new Chief Justice “lack a sense of delicadeza.”

He said the interpretation of the Supreme Court justices’ on the Constitution is what prevails today.

“I think what is lacking there is the sense of delicadeza among the members of the Supreme Court. If you will check on the records of those who favored the ruling that Arroyo has the authority to appoint the new chief justice is that they are the most recent appointees of the president,” Bautista said.

For his part, former senator Francisco Tatad said there’s no need to interpret the Constitution to guide and enlighten the justices in their ruling on the authority of the President to appoint the new chief justice during the 90-day ban on appointments before the election.

“What you need is to read the Constitution correctly. You don’t have to interpret the Constitution. The Constitution is very clear. The vacancy has to be filled within 90 days, fill up the vacancy before the 90 days ban,” Tatad said.

PMP senatorial candidate Rodolfo “Jun” Lozada said the High Tribunal can elect an acting chief justice from among themselves.

“The justices have probably been pressured. It’s payback time for debt of gratitude. The SC justices should appoint a chief justice, but they come up with the ruling probably because they are forced to pay back their debt of gratitude,” Lozada said.

Of the four, only Senate President Pro Tempore Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada gave a submissive statement to the High Court’s ruling.

“We can stage rallies and so forth. But we cannot really do anything about it anymore. The Supreme Court is the court of last resort,” Estrada said. With Paolo Romero, Jess Diaz, Jose Rodel Clapano

JBC interviews give glimpse of high court under new CJ

JBC interviews give glimpse of high court under new CJ
By Vincent Cabreza, Elmer Kristian Dauigoy
Philippine Daily Inquirer, Inquirer Northern Luzon

BAGUIO CITY—The first public interviews of four nominees for the post of Chief Justice, which took place on Monday, provided a glimpse of the Supreme Court after the retirement of Chief Justice Reynato Puno on May 17.

The tribunal may become “pragmatic,” “transparent” or “neutral” under Associate Justices Arturo Brion, Teresita Leonardo-De Castro and Renato Corona, respectively, or “crusading” under Sandiganbayan Presiding Justice Edilberto Sandoval, or at least that was how they described themselves during the eight-hour interviews conducted by the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC).

Vincent Lazatin, chair of the Transparency and Accountability Network and co-convenor of the Supreme Court Appointments Watch, lauded the “landmark process” of selecting a Chief Justice.

Earlier, two other nominees, Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio and Associate Justice Conchita Carpio-Morales, withdrew from contention, saying they would not accept the post from President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo because of the constitutional ban on midnight appointments.

The high court Tuesday denied with finality the motion seeking the reversal of its March 17 ruling authorizing Ms Arroyo to appoint Puno’s successor.

Image problem

JBC chair Puno and members Justice Secretary Alberto Agra, Quezon City Rep. Matias Defensor Jr., Justice Aurora Santiago-Lagman, retired Justice Regino Hermosisima Jr., law dean Amado Dimayuga and lawyer J. Conrado Castro made up the panel of interviewers.

The nominees were asked about a major concern plaguing the tribunal: How would they solve the judiciary’s image problem?

According to Dimayuga, the debates on the selection of the Chief Justice were “too contentious,” and that “divisions had eroded the integrity of the high court.”

Puno also asked the nominees if the tribunal would survive without a Chief Justice in the period before a new president assumes office.

Beyond media glare

Brion spent the whole morning—the longest interview—discussing his view of the political and social landscape.

He said he was neither a “conservative” nor a “liberal,” and preferred the description “pragmatic” owing to his having held the justice and labor portfolios under the Arroyo administration.

“When I headed [the labor department, it], was no longer in the news, [so under my administration] the Supreme Court will [not also] be in the news except with respect to its decisions. I will work silently beyond the glare of the media,” Brion said.

He said that under his leadership, the high court would be prepared for an inevitable constitutional convention.

Brion said the high court should study how best to take advantage of Charter change, including fixing the judiciary’s budget so it would no longer be necessary for the tribunal to haggle annually with lawmakers for a share of government revenues.

He pointed out that the judiciary was receiving less than a percent of the national budget.

Brion also said the high court needed a permanent Chief Justice installed by May 17. He said the Constitution prescribed a complete court to deal with such crises as failed elections.

Trial experience

Sandoval presented himself to the JBC as a crusader who fought for trial judges needing protection from malicious charges.

Allowed to give an opening spiel, he said the appointing powers always preferred associate justices over nominees “from the ranks of trial judges” like himself when the latter had better trial experience.

Puno explained to Sandoval that the JBC required the nominees to defend their respective visions for the judiciary.

But Sandoval, who is turning 69 soon, could not provide concrete programs for the high court during an hour-long questioning.

Consistency

Leonardo-De Castro, the lone woman nominee, said the judiciary should accept that “it can’t please them all.”

She said working hard to make the public understand how the high court’s decisions were made should cure the “creeping perception of partisanship” in the tribunal.

“I will see to it that decisions are well written and well understood by the public,” she said.

Leonardo-De Castro said the issue on the appointment of Puno’s successor should be addressed by a consistent tribunal in the face of a “vocal” media.

“Public offices come and go, but the Constitution will always remain [the high court’s singular voice]. We should not be guided by the personal views of [critics] because the same question would crop again in another administration. We must be firm,” she said.

Without fear or favor

Corona was the last to be interviewed, spending two hours with the JBC after most of the high court’s employees had gone home.

He said the tribunal was the national conscience that should act “without fear or favor.”

“What public outrage? Or is it just public outrage of a few?” he said in response to questions about criticism of the tribunal’s March 17 ruling.

He described protesters as “noisy” and “undisciplined,” and said the judiciary was “nonnegotiable.”

“If the government is wrong 100 percent, I would not vote for it 100 percent. If the government is right 100 percent, I will vote for it 100 percent,” he said.

At one point, Corona grew emotional when he said: “I always believe that the greatest gift God can give in a lifetime is a faithful wife and happy family. I have both. I don’t need more, not even the [post of] Chief Justice.”

It's final: GMA can pick next Supreme Court chief

It’s final: GMA can pick next Supreme Court chief
By Edu Punay
The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines – President Arroyo’s power to name the next chief justice was affirmed by the Supreme Court (SC), which ruled with finality on the case yesterday.

Nine justices voted to uphold their March 17 decision that the constitutional ban on midnight appointments does not apply to the SC.

Holding session in Baguio City, Associate Justices Lucas Bersamin, Jose Perez, Roberto Abad, Martin Villarama, Teresita Leonardo-de Castro, Arturo Brion, Diosdado Peralta, Jose Mendoza and Mariano del Castillo dismissed the arguments raised in the motions for reconsideration of various groups.

Justice Conchita Carpio-Morales dissented, while Chief Justice Reynato Puno and senior Justices Renato Corona and Antonio Carpio did not take part in the voting.

At Malacañang, deputy presidential spokesman Gary Olivar said the SC ruling will pave the way for the appointment of Puno’s successor after he retires on May 17.

Deputy presidential spokesman Rogelio Peyuan said Mrs. Arroyo would do what she deems is in the best interest of the country.

“If this is what is required of the President then she would do this especially since this was not her determination but this is what was contained in the decision of our Supreme Court,” he said in Filipino.

Jose Midas Marquez, court administrator and SC spokesman, said the majority of justices believe that the basic issues raised in the motions for reconsideration have been passed upon in the original decision.

“Given the background and rationale for the prohibition in Section 15, Article VII, we have no doubt that the Constitutional Commission confined the prohibition to appointments made in the executive department,” read the SC decision.

“The framers did not need to extend the prohibition to appointments in the judiciary, because their establishment of the JBC and their subjecting the nomination and screening of candidates for judicial positions to the unhurried and deliberate prior process of the JBC ensured that there would no longer be midnight appointments to the judiciary.”

However, the justices failed to come up with a doctrinal ruling on whether the exemption to the midnight appointment ban applies only to the SC or to the entire judiciary, Marquez said.

Justices Antonio Eduardo Nachura and Presbitero Velasco voted to grant the motions for reconsideration on the ground that the decision was premature.

Justice Carpio-Morales believed that Mrs. Arroyo cannot name the next chief justice based on the constitutional ban on midnight appointments.

Three resolutions were issued by the Court yesterday: one by Justice Bersamin, who penned the decision; another by Justice Brion, who concurred with the majority decision, but with a qualification; and the last one by Justice Carpio-Morales, who reiterated her dissent.

It was exactly the same voting as in the consolidated petitions of the Philippine Constitution Association and lawyers Arturo de Castro and Estelito Mendoza.

There was no majority vote as to the validity of the 1998 decision of the Court to void the appointments of Judges Mateo Valenzuela and Placido Vallarta to the regional trial courts for violating the constitutional ban on appointments during the election period.

The SC again gave weight to the government’s position that appointments in the SC cannot be considered midnight because of the nomination process in the Judicial and Bar Council.

It also agreed with the Office of the Solicitor General that the JBC does not have the power to withhold its list from the President.

Pimentel: JBC must stop screening CJ aspirants

Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel Jr. urged the JBC yesterday to stop screening aspirants for the post of chief justice since the vacancy will only occur on May 17.

“The position of chief justice is not an executive position,” he said.

“And no temporary appointments may be made to that position. It is also a position in a collegial body whose functions would not be prejudiced even if for some time it is vacant.”

Pimentel said the Constitution clearly bans appointments by the President two months before the elections and up to the end of his or her term.

The only exceptions are temporary appointments to executive offices, he added.

Pimentel said while the post remains unfilled, the most senior justice can serve as acting chief justice.

“And under the circumstances, it won’t be vacant for long because the new administration would come into power after June 30 this year,” he said.

“And the new president would have ample time to appoint the new chief justice.”

Sandoval’s qualifications questioned

Chief Justice Puno questioned the qualifications of acting Sandiganbayan Presiding Justice Edilberto Sandoval during his public interview before the JBC yesterday.

Puno told Sandoval his 14 years of law practice were focused on criminal law.

A chief justice needs a well-rounded practice of law, he added.

However, Sandoval pushed his judicial improvement program like payment of judges’ benefits.

On the other hand, Justice De Castro told the JBC the Supreme Court “should decide cases with dispatch to stabilize the nation,” instead of creating chaos.

The SC must be a stabilizer for progress, she added.

The interview ended at around 7:30 p.m. with Justice Corona being swarmed with recurrent questions on several complaints of his judicial independence and judgment on cases he had handled.

The JBC took cognizance of the complaints against Justice Corona.

After the public interviews today, the JBC will submit a shortlist to Mrs. Arroyo on Tuesday. – With Artemio Dumlao, Marvin Sy, Christina Mendez, Delon Porcalla, Aurea Calica

Puno asks critics to respect SC ruling on chief justice issue

Puno asks critics to respect SC ruling on chief justice issue
JOSEPH MORONG
GMA News

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

JBC sets interviews of 6 nominees for next chief justice

JBC sets interviews of 6 nominees for next chief justice
By Sandy Araneta
The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines – The Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) will interview candidates for the position of chief justice next week, the Supreme Court (SC) announced yesterday.

In an announcement published in The STAR, clerk of court and JBC ex officio secretary Ma. Luisa Villarama said candidates Associate Justices Arturo Brion, Antonio Carpio, Renato Corona, and Conchita Carpio-Morales are scheduled to be interviewed on April 19, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Associate Justices Teresita Leonardo de Castro and Edilberto Sandoval will be interviewed on April 20, from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m.

Interviews will be conducted by the JBC at the Session Hall, Supreme Court Administration Building, Baguio City, pursuant to the amended Section I, Rule 7 of the Rules of the JBC (JBC-009).

The JBC also announced that the interviews of candidates for three vacant positions of Associate Justice of the Court of Appeals have been rescheduled to April 26 to 28. The candidates are vice Associate Justices Martin Villarama Jr., Jose Mendoza and Arturo Tayag.

The JBC also announced that the following lawyers are candidates for magistrate positions in regional courts.

Region III Olongapo City, Zambales Regional Trial Court (RTC) Branch 73: Jose Banday, Rose Mary Bautista, Jacinto Gonzales, Ma. Christine Guerrero, Joseph Guevarra, Merinnisa Ligaya, Cielitolindo Luyun, Enrique Madarang, Norman Pamintuan, and Ildefonso Recitis.

Gapan, Nueva Ecija RTC Branch 36: Marianito Bote, Bernardino Cabiles, Pablo Gajardo Jr., Rixon Garong, Cielitolindo Luyun, Domingo Orda Jr., Ireneo Romano, and Brigando Saldivar.

Region IV, Gumaca, Quezon, RTC Branch 61: Bernardio Cabiles, Rodrigo Eguia, Maria Chona Navarro, Pedro Redoña, Millicent Reyes, and Jose Yap.

Tanauan, Batangas, RTC Branch 83: Eva Atienza, Rose Marie Austria, Jose Balmeo Jr., Achilles Balauitan, Raniel Cruz, Gener Gito, Ethel Gutay, and Silvino Ramos.

Rosario, Batangas, RTC Branch 87: Eva Atienza, Rose Marie Austria, Bernardino Cabiles, Gener Gito, Ethel Gutay, Mercedes Lindog, Violeta Perena, and Silvino Ramos.

Region V, Sorsogon City, Sorsogon, RTC Branch 51: Maximino Ables, Marie Louise Aragon, Flerida Banzuela, Maria Lina Nieva Casals, Juan Dealca, Amado Dimaano, Jacinto Fajardo Jr., Cynthia Falcotelo, Isabel Florin, Lenita Mendoza, Victoria Reyes, and Jose Yap.

Region IX, Pagadian City, Zamboanga del Sur, RTC Branch 20: Alsa Alfad, Jr., Gino Jovito Aranas, Exequiel Dayot III, and Tirsendo Poloyapoy.

Candidates for magistrate position in the Municipal Trial Court in Cities (MTCC), Region IX, Zamboanga City, Zamboanga del Sur, Branch 3 are: Juan Gabriel Alano, Carlo Martin Alcala, German Ballesteros III, Shene Canete, Parina Jabinal, Julpihir Jalambo, and Gulamurrasid Sahibbil.

The JBC said the public may submit to the JBC a sworn complaint, written report, or opposition against any of the candidates for the Court of Appeals and the lower courts not later than April 19.

Letters must be sent to the JBC, 2nd Floor, Centen-nial Bldg., Supreme Court, Padre Faura St., Manila. The Supreme Court may be contacted through telephone 552-9512, fax 552-9607, and email addresses [email protected] and [email protected] .

All applicants for judicial positions must submit to the JBC before the date of the interview the following: updated JBC Form 1 (Revised September 2007); proof of age and Filipino citizenship; and 2010 Ombudsman, NBI, IBP, OBC and police clearances, and medical certificates.

'No new Sandiganbayan chief until after Supreme Court ruling'

‘No new Sandiganbayan chief until after Supreme Court ruling’
By Marvin Sy
The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines – Malacañang has given assurance that President Arroyo will not appoint a new Sandiganbayan presiding justice before the Supreme Court (SC) finally rules on the appointment of the successor of Chief Justice Reynato Puno.

Executive Secretary Leandro Mendoza said the President is well aware that the SC ruling allowing her to appoint the next chief justice is not yet final and that she always respects the law.

Mendoza explained that a motion for reconsideration had already been filed before the high court on its March 17 ruling and the President would wait for final resolution of the case.

Sandiganbayan presiding justice Norberto Geraldez died of pancreatic cancer last Sunday, barely a month after the President appointed him to the post.

Justice Edilberto Sandoval took over as acting presiding justice of the anti-graft court.

The Palace has taken a position on the appointment of the Sandiganbayan presiding justice similar to its stand on the case of the chief justice – that the President can make the appointment in spite of the 60-day election ban.

Justice Secretary and Solicitor General Alberto Agra said appointments to the judiciary are not covered by the ban and that the SC’s March 17 ruling affirmed this.

He said his office would submit comment on appeals of the SC ruling and include government’s position that the decision effectively exempts the entire judiciary from the ban.

Harsh criticisms

The intention of the President to appoint the next chief justice and the presiding justice of the Sandiganbayan has drawn harsh criticism from the political opposition.

The opposition claimed that Mrs. Arroyo would be violating the law by appointing the two justices during the 60-day ban on appointments during the elections.

They also claimed that the President intended to make the appointments to improve her chances of being saved from prosecution after she steps down from office on June 30.

Presidential spokesman Ricardo Saludo urged the opposition to wait for the final SC ruling before making statements on the issue.

However, Saludo pointed out that the President would be doing a disservice if she allows the post at the Sandiganbayan to remain vacant until the end of her term.

“We should also consider the principle that justice delayed is justice denied. Allowing a prompt appointment to the Sandiganbayan would expedite cases now pending before it,” he said.

Former President Joseph Estrada said Malacañang’s plan to appoint a new Sandiganbayan presiding justice indicates the Arroyo government’s obsession with power.

Speaking through his spokesperson Margaux Salcedo, Estrada said Arroyo would violate the ban on midnight appointments if she would appoint a new Sandiganbayan presiding justice.

“This appointment would be outside the Supreme Court ruling and clearly fall within the ban on midnight appointments,” Estrada said.

No rule yet

SC administrator and spokesman Midas Marquez said there is no rule laid down yet on whether Mrs. Arroyo can appoint another presiding justice of the anti-graft court within the ban period, which started last March 11 and lasts until the end of her term on June 30.

Marquez said the President can appoint another Sandiganbayan chief and this could be subject to review of the high court.

Earlier, Marquez explained that the SC ruling on the chief justice post could not be used by the Palace to justify recent movements in the executive office, including the appointment of 87-year-old taipan Alfonso Yuchengco in place of Philippine Ambassador to Germany Delia Domingo-Albert.

For the vacant Sandiganbayan post, the SC official said the issue has yet to reach the Court.

The Palace had reportedly said it could use the SC ruling in justifying appointments in other positions in the judiciary and that the high court only ruled with respect to the chief justice post.

“The Supreme Court decision is quite categorical. It reversed its ruling on the Vallarta-Valenzuela case,” Agra explained, referring to the 1998 ruling of the high court on the cases of Judges Mateo Valenzuela and Placido Vallarta, which declared that the appointments of judges in trial courts were covered by the ban on midnight appointments.

The SC had earlier clarified that its ruling on De Castro is “non-doctrinal” as far as the coverage of the ban on appointments in appellate and lower courts is concerned, since the nine justices in the majority vote were divided on whether the exemption covers just the SC or the entire judiciary.

Marquez stressed that while the SC failed to settle this issue, the main controversy in the consolidated petitions filed by the Philippine Constitution Association and lawyers Arturo de Castro and Estelito Mendoza – which the Court resolved – only involves the chief justice post.

But Agra said the position of five of the nine justices that the entire judiciary is exempted from the ban could be considered a “majority vote” already.

‘Spare next  presiding justice’

Former Sen. Ralph Recto appealed to the President to spare the next presiding justice of the Sandiganbayan from any permanent appointment, “as this midnight appointment might haunt the appointee for his entire judicial career.”

Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel Jr. asked the SC to reverse its decision allowing the President to appoint a new chief justice.

In a motion for intervention, Pimentel said that the high court’s decision last March 17 “runs counter to the principle” that republican constitutions establish “limitations to the power of officials in whose hands government authority is lodged momentarily.”

Pimentel said the court should take a second look at the dissenting opinion of Justice Conchita Carpio-Morales, which “cogently dissected each argument postulated by the majority of the Court, shredded the basis of its individual premises and exposed the irrationality of its conclusions.”

Meanwhile, a group of lawyers asked the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) to proceed with its selection of the next chief justice and resolve related issues without representation from the Palace.

In a letter to Puno, also ex-officio chair of JBC, the Alternative Law Group (ALG) sought the inhibition or disqualification of Agra from deliberations of the collegial body in the nomination process for the chief justice post due to “conflict of interest.” – With Edu Punay, Christina Mendez, Delon Porcalla, Rodel Clapano

JBC meets today on chief justice selection

JBC meets today on chief justice selection
By Edu Punay
The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines – After getting the go-signal from the Supreme Court, the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) is set to continue today the nomination process for the position of chief justice in a meeting in Baguio City.

Justice Secretary Alberto Agra, ex-officio member of the JBC, said the collegial body would follow the order of the High Court to proceed with the screening of the six remaining candidates and prepare the shortlist of nominees to be submitted to President Arroyo.

Agra said they would ask Senior Associate Justices Antonio Carpio and Conchita Carpio–Morales to reconsider their positions.

The two justices accepted the nomination but said they would reject an appointment from President Arroyo because it would violate the constitutional ban on midnight appointments during the election period.

Agra said the two justices must reconsider their position in the light of the SC ruling allowing Mrs. Arroyo to appoint the next chief justice.

“If they keep their condition, I think they should not be included in the shortlist that will be submitted to the President,” Agra said.

Delisting the two would leave the other four nominees in the shortlist – Senior Associate Justice Renato Corona, Associate Justices Arturo Brion and Teresita Leonardo-de Castro, and Sandiganbayan Senior Justice Edilberto Sandoval.

The law requires at least three names in the shortlist to be submitted before the President.

Agra said another issue the JBC would resolve today is whether it would set public interviews to the candidates.

Agra noted each member of the judiciary who are candidates for the position of chief justice is traditionally exempted from the required public interviews for candidates.

All six contenders have already been interviewed by the JBC anyway before they were appointed to their respective posts in the judiciary, he explained.

Agra said the JBC would also decide on the allegations against some aspirants.

Agra said the panel could possibly decide to immediately start the selection process for the vacancy for the position of associate justice in the SC that would be left vacant by the appointment of the next chief magistrate upon the retirement of Chief Justice Reynato Puno on May 17.

Agra stressed the JBC would proceed in the nomination process since the position of chief justice is not covered by the constitutional ban on midnight appointments.

Agra added the JBC has not set a timeline for the deliberation, but gave assurance they will submit the shortlist on or before May 17.

Chief Justice Puno will preside over the JBC meeting as the body’s ex-officio chairman. Puno earlier inhibited from the deliberations since the process involves the appointment of his successor.

Apart from Puno and Agra, other members of the JBC include Sen. Francis Escudero, Quezon City Rep. Matias Defensor Jr., retired SC justice Regino Hermosisima Jr., University of Santo Tomas Dean Emeritus Amado Dimayuga, Justice Aurora Santiago-Lagman and lawyer J. Conrado Castro representing the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP).

The JBC earlier decided to await the ruling on the petitions before the SC on whether the President is allowed under the Constitution to appoint the next chief justice notwithstanding the ban on appointments during the election period.

By a vote of 9-1-3, the high court ruled the ban on appointments under Article VII Section 15 of the Constitution does not apply to positions in the SC.

In its comment, the JBC said it would submit to whatever ruling the SC would render on the case.

“Since the Honorable Supreme Court is the final interpreter of the Constitution, the JBC will be guided by its decision,” the JBC said.

‘Judicial indiscretion’

A senior lawmaker said the nine justices of the SC who allowed President Arroyo to appoint the next chief justice committed a “judicial indiscretion.”

Nueva Ecija Rep. Edno Joson said the 1987 Constitution does not have any ambiguity on this matter, reiterating the election ban two months prior to the May 10 polls until the end of Mrs. Arroyo’s term on June 30.

“I call it judicial indiscretion or grave abuse of discretion, which amounts to culpable violation of the Constitution, making them liable for impeachment,” Joson warned.

He said the March 17 ruling can also be considered another act of “judicial legislation,” like the SC decision that forced the House of Representatives to accommodate 32 more party-list representatives without budget allocations, which Joson claimed had modified an established party-list formula.

“They (SC) cannot change or modify constitutional commission’s intent and allude unto themselves sovereign powers. They cannot also be partisan or political in their decisions, otherwise, the essence of justice which is independence and integrity will be lost,” Joson stressed.

Joson claimed “only a miracle” can reverse the SC decision.

Former Ombudsman Simeon Marcelo earlier warned the SC ruling is tantamount to amending the 1987 Constitution.

Marcelo said the high court virtually altered the Constitution when it decided to rule in favor of Mrs. Arroyo in allowing her to appoint the next chief justice amid the constitutional ban.

“It is a very clear violation of the 1987 Constitution because of the absolute prohibition,” Marcelo said.

In a related development, more groups of lawyers submitted last minute appeals on the decision just before the Lenten break.

In two separate motions for reconsideration, the Philippine Bar Association (PBA) and chapters of the IBP in Southern Luzon and Eastern Visayas both argued that the High Court committed an error in directing the JBC to submit the shortlist of nominees.

The PBA argued the JBC, in submitting the shortlist, in effect allowed the President to “execute a culpable violation of the Constitution and the commission of an election offense” considering that “the constitutional ban on appointments is already in effect.”

Marcelo led a group of petitioners alleging the SC “violated the basic precepts of understanding and applying the Constitution.” –With Delon Porcalla

Palace on Noynoy threat of protests: Bring it on

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.

SC’s warning

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.

Contempt

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

JBC to resume process but urged to be independent

JBC to resume process but urged to be independent
By Jerome Aning
Philippine Daily Inquirer

MANILA, Philippines—The Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) will resume the nomination process for the selection of Chief Justice Reynato Puno’s successor, acting Justice Secretary Alberto Agra said Thursday.

Agra said the JBC had no choice but to comply with the Supreme Court ruling that it submit the short list of nominees to Malacañang on or before May 17, the day Puno retires. In the ruling issued on Tuesday, nine of the 15 justices voted to authorize President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to name the next Chief Justice.

But Sen. Francis Pangilinan, who served as the Senate representative to the JBC from 2001 to 2008, said it should exercise independence from the Supreme Court by asking the latter to reconsider its ruling authorizing Ms Arroyo to name Puno’s successor.

Agra said he did not know whether the JBC could convene in the next few weeks to produce a short list. He pointed out that Puno, its chair, was on vacation and would return to work only next month.

“We don’t have a decision yet as to the next step we will take. We at JBC don’t have a vice chair. But maybe we could appoint among ourselves the acting presiding officer,” Agra told the Philippine Daily Inquirer by phone.

Asked if the JBC would submit its short list to the Palace before the May 10 elections, he said: “We don’t have a timeline. [But] my personal view is that we will finish the process soon.”

JBC members

Section 8 (1) Article VIII of the 1987 Constitution states that the JBC is “created under the supervision of the Supreme Court,” and is made up of the Chief Justice as ex officio chair, the justice secretary and a representative each of the Senate and the House as ex officio members, and a representative of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP), a law professor, a retired justice of the high court and a representative of the private sector.

Apart from Puno, the current members of the JBC are Agra, Quezon City Rep. Matias Defensor Jr. and Sen. Francis Escudero as ex officio members, and retired Justice Regino Hermosisima Jr., law dean Amado Dimayuga, Justice Aurora Santiago Lagman (private sector representative) and J. Conrado P. Castro (IBP representative).

A lawyer has called on Hermosisima to inhibit himself from the JBC’s nomination process for the next Chief Justice due to his perceived loyalty to the Arroyo administration.

Agra, who was named acting justice secretary early this month, said he had attended a meeting of the JBC only once. He said two other meetings had been scheduled but that the agenda items relayed to him only pertained to interviews for other vacancies in the judiciary.

He also said JBC members could probably decide whether they still had to interview applicants to the post of chief justice. But he added that all of the applicants were interviewed by the JBC when they applied for lower positions in the judiciary.

Carpio, Morales’ stand

Agra said the JBC would be interested to know if there was any change in the position of two of the nominees—Associate Justices Antonio Carpio and Conchita Carpio-Morales—who had said that if and when they were chosen, they would accept the appointment only from the next President.

“They had conditions attached to their nomination. We may have to ask them what would be their new position now that there is a Supreme Court decision—if they will withdraw their acceptance of the nomination. I want this to be clarified,” he said.

Asked if there was anything else in the high court’s ruling that the JBC might want clarified, Agra said there was an “ambiguity” in the position of five justices who said the ban on midnight appointments by an outgoing President did not cover the entire judiciary.

The Inquirer sought comments from the offices of Carpio and Morales, but their staffs said none was forthcoming. The staff of Morales pointed out that the high court’s ruling was not yet final and executory.

At the Usaping Balita News Forum, Congressman Defensor said the JBC would have to include Carpio and Morales in the short list of nominees for Chief Justice.

Defensor, who chairs the House committee on justice, said “there is still that possibility” that Ms Arroyo would not name Puno’s successor, and that keeping the two justices on the list would give them a chance to be selected by the next President.

He did not say why Ms Arroyo would shy away from naming a new Chief Justice.

Defensor said the JBC could list up to six nominees, to include Carpio, Morales, Associate Justices Renato Corona, Teresita Leonardo-de Castro and Arturo Brion, and Sandiganbayan Associate Justice Edilberto Sandoval.

Hermosisima not yet confirmed

In a letter to the JBC dated March 9, lawyer Nestor Leynes III said Hermosisima’s appointment to the council had yet to be confirmed by the Commission on Appointments.

Leynes said the 82-year-old Hermosisima was only serving the JBC in an acting capacity on the basis of Ms Arroyo’s ad interim appointment that she could revoke at any time.

“As such, this serves as a sort of Sword of Damocles that hangs over his head, making him vulnerable to succumb to the wishes of the appointing power,” Leynes said.

He observed that Hermosisima was serving in the JBC on an unprecedented fourth term, having been appointed thrice by Ms Arroyo.

“It is not unreasonable to conclude that the repeated appointments of Honorable Justice Hermosisima by President Arroyo may have taken a toll on his independence. It may have rendered him deeply beholden to the appointing authority and could have deeply compromised his impartiality,” Leynes said.

JBC not under SC control

Pangilinan said the JBC should vote as a collegial body on the ruling. If a vote opposing the ruling emerges, it should file a motion for consideration with the high court, he said.

“The JBC, while under the supervision of the Supreme Court, is not under its control when it comes to its powers to screen nominees and submit the list of nominees to Malacañang,” Pangilinan said in a statement.

“The JBC is not, and never should be, a rubber stamp of the Supreme Court. It should vote on the issue and make its stand known to the public,” he said. With reports from Gil C. Cabacungan Jr., TJ Burgonio and Inquirer Research

2 justices who said ‘no’ to Arroyo appointment

2 justices who said ‘no’ to Arroyo appointment
By Dona Pazzibugan
Philippine Daily Inquirer

MANILA, Philippines—Now that the Supreme Court has ruled that President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo may appoint the next Chief Justice, what happens to the two justices who said they would not accept an appointment from her?

Of the candidates for the Chief Justice post, it was only Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio and Associate Justice Conchita Carpio-Morales who accepted the nomination of the JBC on the condition that the appointment of the next Chief Justice would be made by the next President.

The other candidates—Associate Justices Renato Corona, Teresita Leonardo-de Castro and Arturo Brion and Sandiganbayan Senior Associate Justice Edilberto Sandoval—made no such condition.

“Perhaps the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) will tackle that. I would like to think the JBC will go over the decision and decide on its own to include or exclude those who gave conditions,” Supreme Court spokesperson Midas Marquez told reporters Wednesday.

“I don’t want to preempt the JBC. The only order was to submit a short list on or before May 17,” he said.

Acting Chief Justice

Chief Justice Reynato Puno retires on May 17, a week after the presidential election.

His retirement will leave the Supreme Court entirely made up of Ms Arroyo’s appointees.

He is due to go on a two-week leave, and has designated Carpio as acting Chief Justice “effective March 18” until he “reports back to work.”

In naming Carpio, Puno followed the tradition of appointing the most senior member of the court as acting Chief Justice whenever the Chief Justice goes on leave.

Carpio, who had served as former President Fidel Ramos’ chief legal counsel, is a founding partner of what is now the Villaraza Cruz Marcelo and Angangco law firm.

Known as “The Firm,” it was once closely identified with the First Couple until a falling out some years ago.

Corona served as Ms Arroyo’s chief of staff before he was appointed to the Supreme Court, and is largely viewed as her choice for chief justice.

Letters to the JBC

Carpio was appointed on Oct. 22, 2001, and was Ms Arroyo’s first appointment to the high court.

Morales, appointed on Aug. 26, 2002, is the third most senior associate justice. If chosen, she would be the country’s first woman chief justice.

In her Jan. 24 letter to the JBC, Morales referred to Section 15 Article VII of the Constitution which states: “Two months immediately before the next presidential election and up to the end of his or her term, a president or acting president shall not make appointments, except temporary appointments to executive positions when continued vacancies therein will prejudice public service or endanger public safety.”

Carpio wrote the JBC on Jan. 26 and said he was interested in being considered for nomination, but “on the understanding” that the JBC submits his nomination as Chief Justice only to the next president.

He also cited the constitutional ban against the President making appointments two months before a presidential election.

The special order dated March 16 that Puno issued Wednesday night reads: “In view of the wellness and sabbatical leave of the undersigned from March 18 to 30, 2010, Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio is hereby designated as acting Chief Justice, with authority to exercise the powers and prerogatives of and pertaining to the position of Chief Justice on matters that cannot wait for the Chief Justice.” With a report from Eliza Victoria, Inquirer Research