Teodoro: GMA should not appoint next chief justice

Teodoro: GMA should not appoint next chief justice
By Jaime Laude
The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines – Lakas-Kampi-CMD standard-bearer Gilbert Teodoro Jr. says President Arroyo should not name a new chief justice.

Speaking to The STAR editors yesterday, Teodoro said the Supreme Court (SC) can function with just 13 members.

Teodoro pointed out that “if there is no vacancy, there should be no appointment.”

“How could you appoint somebody to a position which is not vacant in the first place?” he asked, adding that the last thing the country needed was another divisive issue so it was better to be prudent.

He said an appointment under such circumstances would also not be good for the appointee, who will always have a cloud of doubt and controversy hanging over him.

The Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) has asked the SC to compel the Judicial and Bar Council to submit to Mrs. Arroyo its shortlist for next chief justice.

The move triggered speculations that the government wants to clear the way for Mrs. Arroyo to name Chief Justice Reynato Puno’s replacement ahead of his May 17 retirement.

Solicitor General Alberto Agra said the JBC does not have the power to defer the submission of its shortlist to the President.

The appointment of a new chief justice is not covered by any election ban, he added.

Meanwhile, former Senate president Franklin Drilon said yesterday the issue is about what the Constitution allows and forbids, not who between associate justices Antonio Carpio and Renato Corona should be named chief justice.

Speaking at the weekly Kapihan sa Manila Hotel media forum, Drilon said Article VIII Section 4(1) of the Constitution provides that any vacancy in the Supreme Court shall be filled within 90 days of the occurrence.

On the other hand, Article VII Section 15 requires that two months preceding the next presidential election and up to the end of his/her term, the President shall not make appointments except temporary appointments to executive positions when continued vacancies will prejudice or endanger public safety, he added.

Drilon hopes that debate would not be a fight between Carpio and Corona because both are qualified to be chief justice.

“There must be correct interpretation of the Constitution,” he said.

Drilon said the Supreme Court has ruled that during the period of the ban under Article VII Section 15, the President cannot make midnight appointments.

“A precedent case in this situation is the 1998 Supreme Court case ‘In Re Appointments of Valenzuela and Vallarta,’ where the Tribunal was confronted with the question of whether, during the period when appointments are banned, the President is required to appoint a Regional Trial Court judge in view of Article VIII Section 9, which mandates that the President shall issue the appointments within 90 days from the submission of the list by the JBC,” he said.

Carpio and Corona are frontrunners in the race for the next chief justice.

Drilon said in 1962, the SC voided 350 appointments President Carlos Garcia had made in December 1961 before President Diosdado Macapagal assumed office.

The SC ruled that the outgoing President was no more than a caretaker administrator whose duty was to prepare for the orderly transfer of authority to the incoming President, he added.

In 1998, President Fidel Ramos allowed his successor President Joseph Estrada to appoint the new chief justice.

Lawyers ask SC to dismiss petition seeking to allow GMA to name CJ

A group of lawyers has asked the SC to dismiss a petition seeking to allow President Arroyo to name the next chief justice.

The National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL) said Mrs. Arroyo is not allowed by the Constitution to name the replacement of Chief Justice Puno before or after the vacancy occurs.

“The President is still prohibited to appoint, since the vacancy in the Chief Justice position will fall within the prohibited period of 60 days before the presidential elections,” read the NUPL petition.

“Such an appointment is referred to as a ‘midnight appointment’, which is expressly prohibited by none other than the Constitution, the highest law of the land.”

The NUPL said waiting for the retirement of Puno is also not an option for Mrs. Arroyo since the vacancy falls on a period covered by election ban on midnight appointments.

“Since the President no longer has the authority to appoint the next chief justice by the time Puno retires, existing rules should be followed in filling up his post, which is the designation of the most senior associate justice of the Court as acting chief justice, until the new president appoints a new chief justice,” read the NUPL petition.

“In (her) desire to appoint a new chief justice, President Arroyo will be transgressing several laws and the Constitution and will also be breaking a long tradition already in place in our judicial system, and will also be encroaching upon the powers and the independence of the judiciary.

“The NUPL will not stand idly while the outgoing president tries to pull another sleight of hand while the country is in the middle of the election turmoil.”

Earlier, lawyers Nestor Leynes III and Christian Robert Lim asked the High court to dismiss the petitions supporting the appointment of chief justice by Mrs. Arroyo.

Integrated Bar of the Philippines-Pasay, Parañaque, Las Piñas and Muntinlupa president Peter Irving also filed a similar petition.

Last Friday, the OSG supported consolidated petitions of the Philippine Constitution Association and lawyers Arturo de Castro and Estelito Mendoza seeking to allow Mrs. Arroyo to name Puno’s replacement.

The case will again be included in the SC’s session today.– Jaime Laude, Helen Flores, Edu Punay

Devanadera says CJ row clogging up vacancies

Devanadera says CJ row clogging up vacancies
By Dona Pazzibugan
Philippine Daily Inquirer

MANILA, Philippines—The controversy surrounding the appointment of a new Chief Justice has likewise stymied efforts to fill other vacancies in the judicial system, contributing to clogged court dockets, outgoing Justice Secretary Agnes Devanadera said Monday.

Devanadera, ostensibly making a case for the swift resolution of the standoff, said the last two meetings of the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC), of which she is an ex-officio member, had been inexplicably canceled.

She said vacancies in the various Regional Trial Courts (RTC) and Municipal Trial Courts (MTC) could not be filled until the JBC had screened the applicants and submitted its recommendation to President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

The JBC has been embroiled in the constitutional controversy over Ms Arroyo’s decision to appoint the next Chief Justice when Reynato Puno retires on May 17.

The Constitution bans Ms Arroyo from making so-called midnight appointments starting March 10, or two months before the May 10 elections, until the end of her term on June 30.

In a unanimous move, the JBC has started the screening process but passed on to the Supreme Court the decision on whether Ms Arroyo could appoint the next Chief Justice without violating the Constitution.

“I am sorry that meetings have been canceled … The problem is no reason is stated and I don’t want to venture [into speculations],” she told reporters after farewell ceremonies arranged by employees of the Department of Justice for her.

Devanadera, who is leaving the department to run for a congressional seat in Quezon province, said lack of judges was one of the primary reasons for the “slow pace of resolving cases” in court.

Too many vacancies

“There are too many vacancies in the RTC and MTC. But there are also many applicants in the judiciary,” she said.

She admitted that the inadequate number of government prosecutors also hampered litigation. But unlike judicial posts, there are hardly any takers for the job of prosecutor due to the “small pay yet great personal risk” that comes with the job.

“So I hope the JBC will do its share. But we can’t hasten (filling up vacancies) if we don’t have meetings. I don’t know the reason why they are canceled,” Devanadera said.

Constitutional role

The eight-man council is constitutionally tasked to nominate appointees in the judiciary, from trial court judges to Chief Justice.

The four ex-officio members of the JBC are Chief Justice Puno as chair, Sen. Francis Escudero and Quezon City Rep. Matias Defensor, chair of the Senate and House committees on justice, respectively, and Devanadera.

The other four members who are all appointed by President Macapagal-Arroyo are Regino Hermosisima Jr. as retired Supreme Court justice representative, Dean Amado Dimayuga for the academe, Conrado Castro for the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, and retired Supreme Court Justice Aurora Santiago-Lagman for the private sector.

The JBC is supposed to meet every Monday of the week. But meetings have been canceled in the last two weeks.

No to ‘midnight appointment’

Devanadera said that aside from the selection of the next Chief Justice, the JBC also has on its agenda the filling up of vacancies in the trial courts as well as in the Sandiganbayan, Office of the Ombudsman and the Court of Appeals.

Also Monday, the National Union of People’s Lawyers (NUPL), joined a petition by four other lawyers’ groups in the Supreme Court opposing Ms Arroyo’s planned midnight appointment of Puno’s successor.

“A midnight appointment would be able to purchase loyalties in strategic places, enough for an outgoing president to extend his or her power and influence beyond the tour of office,” the NUPL said in its motion to intervene.

Not Carpio vs Corona

“This is precisely what the prohibition seeks to address and there is no cogent reason in law to argue that members of the judiciary should be exempted from the application of this rule,” the NUPL added.

Former Senate President Franklin Drilon Monday said at the Kapihan sa Manila Hotel that the controversy over the next Chief Justice should not be reduced to a bout between Supreme Court Justices Antonio Carpio and Renato Corona.

“I hope that we can bring back the debate not on the personalities of these two senior justices but of the concept and legal issue of whether or not the President violates the Constitution if and when she appoints the next chief justices not withstanding the constitutional ban against such midnight appointments,” he added. With a report from Philip C. Tubeza