‘Supreme Court must reconsider CJ ruling’
Palace belies talk of poll failure, martial law
MANILA, Philippines – Various groups are expected to hold a protest on Friday against the Supreme Court ruling allowing President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to appoint the next chief justice despite a ban on presidential appointments during an election period.
Lawyers’ organizations and party-list group Akbayan are set to march to the Supreme Court Friday morning to condemn the ruling issued on Wednesday. (Read: SC: President can appoint new chief justice)
The Philippine Bar Association (PBA) will file before April a motion for reconsideration on the controversial decision.
Speaking to ANC’s Headstart on Thursday, former Ombudsman and PBA President Simeon Marcelo said a previous Supreme Court decision had stated that the chief justice post is covered by the constitutional ban on appointments during the election period.
He also questioned the Supreme Court’s failure to hold oral arguments and invite “friends of the court” or the amicus curae to give their opinions on the case. (Read: Ex-Ombudsman Marcelo cites dangers in SC decision)
“There seems to be an undue haste in resolving the case,” Marcelo said. “That’s what I was very worried about even before the decision came out.”
Asked what the chances of getting the ruling reversed are, Marcelo said he’s not optimistic. “Sabi ko nga, pagkatapos natin mafile yung motion for reconsideration (MR), araw-araw tayo magdadasal and hope that they are enlightened.”
Supreme Court spokesperson Midas Marquez said anyone can file a motion for reconsideration on the issue.
Grand plan to extend PGMA’s stay in power?
The court’s decision has been widely criticized in legal circles.
Critics of the president claimed the ruling is part of a “grand plan” to extend President Arroyo’s stay in office.
They said that in the event of even a partial failure of elections and the president wins a seat in Congress and is installed as House Speaker, she may be declared as acting president.
Senate minority leader Aquilino Pimentel said on Thursday the Supreme Court’s decision is a “big blow against the rule of law” and “another blight on the armour of the Supreme Court as an institution.”
“I think the Supreme Court misread the constitutional provision and twisted its rationale to provide justification,” Pimentel said.
Palace belies talk of poll failure, martial law
Malacañang, meanwhile, hit back at those criticizing the Supreme Court’s decision allowing President Arroyo to appoint the next chief justice despite the ban on midnight appointments.
Deputy presidential spokesman Gary Olivar on Thursday said critics are trying to scare the public with talks of election failure and even martial law.
Presidential spokesman Ricardo Saludo said Malacañang is confident the Supreme Court will not reverse its decision once a motion for reconsideration is filed.
Saludo also said questions on the independence of justices should be directed at the justices themselves, and not the Palace.
“If you are challenging the independence of justices, why not put the question to them, not to the Palace,” he said.
Final decision is with JBC, not SC
Through a vote of 9 of the 15 Supreme Court justices, the high court on Wednesday ruled that the judiciary is not covered by the ban on appointments before a national election, and Mrs. Arroyo can appoint the new chief justice before she steps down from
The high court also directed the JBC, to submit its shortlist of nominees for chief justice to President Arroyo on or before May 17.
Retired Supreme Court Justice Vicente Mendoza, however, believes the final decision still rests on the JBC.
He said that being an independent body, the JBC can still opt not to give its shortlist of nominees to the incumbent president.
JBC urged not to be SC’s rubber stamp
Senator Francis Pangilinan, who served as JBC Senate representative from 2001 to 2008, urged the JBC not to be a “rubber stamp of the Supreme Court” and “file a motion for reconsideration on the SC ruling.”
“The JBC, as a collegial body, should vote on whether or not it agrees with the SC decision. And if it has the vote favoring opposition to the ruling, it should file a motion for reconsideration with the SC. 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.
“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 added.
For his part, University of the East’s Dean Amado Valdez agreed with associate justices Antonio Nachura and Presbitero Velasco’s argument that the decision is still premature.
“Dapat hindi muna magdesisyon dahil wala pa namang bakante,” Valdez said.
He added it is expected that some quarters will associate the decision with the fact that majority of the justices are Arroyo appointees.
Corona likely to be Chief Justice?
Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) member Senator Francis Escudero said associate justices Antonio Carpio and Conchita Carpio-Morales must declare if they still want to be included in the list of nominees to the chief justice post.
The two justices initially agreed to be nominated on the condition that it won’t be President Arroyo but the next president who would appoint the next chief justice.
Escudero said that if Carpio and Carpio-Morales reject their nominations, associate justice Renato Corona will be the most senior justice in the Supreme Court.
Before Arroyo appointed him to the Supreme Court, Corona served her in the executive department as presidential spokesman, chief presidential legal counsel, acting executive secretary, and presidential chief of staff.
By tradition, the most senior justice is appointed to the top post in the judiciary.
But Escudero was quick to point out that all the nominees are qualified to be the next chief justice.
The senator also said that after the Supreme Court allowed President Arroyo to appoint the next chief justice, the JBC has no choice but to submit a shortlist of nominees.
Arroyo Supreme Court is complete
With the Supreme Court’s decision allowing President Arroyo to name the next chief justice, magistrates of the high court will all now be appointees of the chief executive. (Read: Ruling will allow Arroyo 2 more appointments to SC)
This is once the JBC submits its list of nominees and the president chooses the successor of Chief Justice Puno, who will retire on May 17.
This scenario worried the Makati Business Club. Its executive director Alberto Lim said this could be bad for business because it may create fears of political uncertainty.
Senator Pangilinan said naming the next chief justice is crucial for Arroyo because of the cases the court has to decide upon after the May 10 elections.
This includes the issue on who should sit as acting president in case of a failure of elections.
“Panalo dito si PGMA dahil may pagkakataon siya na ang tao niya na naman ang lalagay niya sa Korte Suprema. This is quite disturbing to say the least,” Pangilinan said.
Marcelo said the president stands to benefit even in the event of a partial failure of elections. If Mrs. Arroyo wins the congressional race in the second district of Pampanga, and is elected House Speaker, she may be declared acting president.
Reports have it Malacañang is favoring Corona as the next chief justice.
Marcelo believes this possibility, and the appointment of General Delfin Bangit as armed forces chief, are just tools to extend the president’s term.
Both Bangit and Corona are close to the president.
“The consequences are far reaching…Well, I’m hoping and praying that the JBC will be more independent than the SC,” Marcelo said.
He also said the JBC can still choose not to promptly submit to the president a list of nominees to the top post of the high court. — reports from ABS-CBN News Channel; Timi Nubla and RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News