Reynato Puno

SC tells Comelec: Bare all preparations for May 10 polls

SC tells Comelec: Bare all preparations for May 10 polls
By Jerome Aning
Philippine Daily Inquirer

MANILA, Philippines—Citing “alarming developments” concerning the reliability of the automated elections system, including the glitches that have developed in the Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machines’ software, the Supreme Court Thursday ordered the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to make public the complete details of its preparations for Monday’s polls.

Voting 12 to 3, the high court directed the Comelec to disclose to the public “the nature and security of all equipment devices such as software and hardware components; the source code for review by interested parties; the terms and protocols of the random manual audit; the certification from the technical evaluation committee that the entire automated system is fully functional and continuity plan is already in place; and the certification protocol and the actual certification issued by the Department of Science and Technology that the 240,000 Board of Election Inspectors all over the country are trained to used the automated election system”.

The decision, penned by Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, said the Comelec must comply with the requirements that are provided for under Republic Act 9369, or the Amended Automated Elections System Law of 2007.

Civil action

The high court was acting on a special civil action for mandamus filed last April 23 by former Vice President Teofisto Guingona Jr., Protestant Bishop Leo Soriano Jr., Quintin Doromal, Fe Maria Arriola, Isagani Serrano and Rodolfo Lozada Jr.

The justices said they were granting only the specific reliefs asked for in the petition because of the proximity of the elections. The petitioners can press the Comelec for other reliefs after the May 10 polls, they said.

The resolution cited news reports on Tuesday that with just six days to go before the May 10 elections, the Comelec has recalled 76,000 compact flash cards because of the widespread failure of the PCOS machines to read and tally votes during the testing conducted by the Comelec and Smartmatic-Total Information Management Corp., the systems supplier.

In its comment submitted on May 4, the Comelec said the petitioners had no legal standing to file the petition and that there was no proof that they had requested the release of the information contained in the documents mentioned in their petition.

The justices said the petitions had “overwhelming support” in the Constitution, citing in particular the provisions on the right to information and the state’s corresponding duty of full disclosure of all transactions involving public interest.

The court also cited the provisions in the Omnibus Election Code, requiring the Comelec to carry out a continuing and systematic campaign to educate the public about elections laws, procedures, decisions and other matters related to its duties; the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards, which mandates all public documents to be made accessible to, and readily available for inspection, by the public; and the Government Procurement Reform Act and RA 9525 (which appropriated P11.3 billion for the automated election), that required transparency in the procurement process and in the implementation of procurement contracts.

Democracy’s last bulwark

“[The] Comelec cannot shirk its constitutional duty to disclose fully to the public complete details of all information relating to its preparations for the May 10, 2010 elections without violating the Constitution and relevant laws. No less than the Constitution mandates it to enforce and administer election laws. The Comelec chair and the six commissioners are beholden and accountable to the people they have sworn to serve,” it said.

Calling itself “the last bulwark of democracy in this country,” the high court said it would spare nothing to ensure that the people’s right to information on matters affecting democratic processes is “fully guaranteed, protected and implemented”.

Concurring with the resolution were Chief Justice Reynato Puno and Associate Justices Conchita Carpio-Morales, Antonio Eduardo Nachura, Teresita Leonardo-de Castro, Arturo Brion, Diosdado Peralta, Lucas Bersamin, Mariano del Castillo, Martin Villarama Jr., Jose Portugal Perez and Jose Mendoza.

Dissenting were Associate Justices Renato Corona, Roberto Abad and Presbitero Velasco Jr.

Secret wealth? 5 top bets have undisclosed assets

Secret wealth? 5 top bets have undisclosed assets
by Karol Anne Ilagan and Malou Mangahas
PCIJ

THE PHILIPPINE PRESS, widely held to be the freest and most rambunctious in Southeast Asia, has no reason to boast and gloat as journalists across the globe observe World Press Freedom Day today.

Aside from the string of unsolved murders of journalists, spotty compliance and outright mockery of the law on the disclosure of statements of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN) by the country’s justices, lawmakers and executive officials continue to hinder the people’s right to know – ironically this year’s theme in commemorating press freedom.

Public officials have observed the SALN law largely in the breach.

Since 2006, the Supreme Court has flatly refused to disclose the SALNs of justices and judges. This is despite a pleading for disclosure that the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) filed in October 2009 that had the high court creating a committee to study the issue and resolve the matter.

Last February, the committee headed by now retired Justice Minita Chico-Nazario recommended the creation on a Committee on Public Disclosure (CPD) to deal with requests for SALNs. The implementing guidelines for the CPD are supposedly being drafted and might be released before Chief Justice Reynato Puno retires on May 17.

If the Supreme Court justices are totally secretive about their SALNs, senators and congressmen file grudgingly, it seems.

These lawmakers, including the leading candidates for president and vice president, typically resort to material omission of data about all their business and financial interests, resulting in a virtual mockery of the SALN law.

Last April 30, the deadline for filing of the SALN for 2009 lapsed. The PCIJ obtained copies of the latest SALN of five of six senators running for president and vice president filed – the Liberal Party’s standard bearer Benigno C. Aquino III and his running mate Manuel Roxas II; the Nacionalista Party’s standard bearer Manuel B. Villar Jr. and his running mate Loren Legarda; and independent candidate for president Ma. Ana Consuelo ‘Jamby’ Madrigal.

No copy of the 2009 SALN of Bagumbayan Party candidate Richard Gordon was yet available as of 5 p.m. last April 30.

The filing of the SALN is a basic duty of all public officials, but most specially, of those serving in high office.

The essence of disclosing business interests and financial connections is to show information on other sources of income of a public servant aside from his salary from government. Theoretically, this would help explain an official’s lifestyle, in the case that he is able to live one that he could not have afforded though his salary alone.

Too, the SALN is a tracer and tracker. It serves as a check for public officials who might have an interest in a business that may be affected by his or her performance or functions in office.

To derive the list of business interests that the top candidates did not disclose, the PCIJ compared the candidates’ latest SALNs with their SALNs from prior years, and conducted a reverse-search on all their business and financial interests using the dabatase of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

The PCIJ’s research does not reveal any other active business interests or financial connections that LP candidate Aquino had not disclosed in his SALNs until 2009.

Hidden or forgotten?

However, the PCIJ research also showed that five candidates for president had omitted or failed to disclose some of their business interests and financial connections in their SALNs. For instance:

  • Villar failed to report in his 2008 and 2009 SALNs at least three other corporations in which he or his spouse have business and financial interests. But the PCIJ has also compiled a list of 29 corporations in which Villar has associated interests based on SEC data, as well as the articles of incorporation, general information sheets and financial statements of the same corporations.
  • Madrigal is an officer and stockholder of at least five corporations that are not listed in the SALNs she filed from 2004 to 2007, and for 2009. One of these companies is Harmony Therapy Centre Corp. (formerly Glorious Buddha, Inc.), which engaged in trade and first registered with the SEC on April 26, 2002. The corporation’s 2004 and 2005 general information sheet or GIS indicate that Madrigal and her husband Eric Dudoignon Valade are both officers and shareholders of the company. Madrigal has subscribed P8,000 worth of shares and Valade, P10,000.

Harmony Therapy Centre’s most recent GIS available in the SEC online database are for the years 2004 and 2005. Madrigal’s 2004 and 2005 SALNs do not list the company as one of her business interests.

The Madrigal listed in the SEC documents of Harmony Therapy has the same address of Senator Madrigal in her SALNs: 145 10th St., New Manila, Quezon City.

Four other companies – Madrigal Pacific Carriers Corp., Pino Armadora Corp., Radiant Holdings, Inc., and Revelstoke Holdings, Inc. – list in their 2007 general information sheets that a “Maria Ana A.S. Madrigal” is an officer and has subscribed shares worth P9.36 million, P100, P2.9 million, and P123,300 in each of the companies, respectively. The Madrigal that has shares in these corporations has the same tax identification number of Senator Madrigal in her SALNs. These four companies are not entered in Madrigal’s 2007 SALN.

  • Gordon did not list one non-stock foundation in his 2000 SALN as a tourism secretary, and two other non-stock foundations in his 2006 SALN.

The first, Olongapo City Foundation, Inc., was not enrolled in the 2000 SALN that Gordon filed as jointly with his spouse, then Olongapo City Mayor Katherine Gordon. According to its 2000 GIS, Olongapo City Foundation was registered as a non-stock corporation registered on January 24, 1985, with Richard J. Gordon as non-stock member and Katherine H. Gordon as vice-president. The Katherine Gordon listed in the 2000 GIS of the Foundation has the same address of Richard Gordon in his SALNs – # 48 Gallagher St., East Tapinac, Olongapo City.

Gordon is also listed as an incorporator and trustee of Victories of the Revolution Foundation, Inc. and Philippine-India Parliamentarians Friendship Association Inc., which were registered with the SEC on September 6, 2006 and September 7, 2006, respectively. Both non-stock corporations are not listed in Gordon’s 2006 SALN, and include other lawmakers and politicians as incorporators and trustees.

Teodoros, too

A similar material omission of business interests that he and his wife own has been committed by former defense secretary Gilberto C. Teodoro Jr., administration Lakas-Kampi-Christian Muslim Democrats (CMD) standard bearer.

Teodoro’s wife, Tarlac Representative Monica Prieto-Teodoro, is listed as an incorporator and trustee of Golden Roosters Foundation, Inc. (formerly Golden Roasters Foundation, Inc.), a non-stock corporation registered with the SEC on May 15, 2008.

According to its articles of incorporation submitted to the SEC on August 29, 2008, the foundation aims “to engage in philanthropic, humanitarian, civic and charitable purposes, all for the welfare of the Filipino children… to empower children who are oppressed, neglected, abandoned, rejected, orphaned and abused.” The lawmaker has contributed P800,0000 to the capital of the association.

The Monica Prieto-Teodoro in the SEC documents of Golden Roosters has the same signature and TIN (Taxpayer’s Identification Number) with that of the Monica Prieto-Teodoro in her joint SALN with Gilbert in 2008.

A “Monica Louise P. Teodoro” of Legaspi Village, Makati City is also listed as an officer and stockholder of Ringwood Holdings, Inc., according to its 2001 general information sheet. Teodoro has subscribed shares worth P100 in this company.

The TIN of Monica Louise P. Teodoro here is 123-492-619 and does not match the TIN indicated in her SALN. But Marybeth L. de Leon, treasurer and stockholder of Ringwood Holdings lists 123-493-627 as her TIN. De Leon’s TIN is Monica’s TIN in her SALN.

Golden Roosters Foundation and Ringwood Holdings are not listed in at least the 2008 and 2001 joint SALNs of Gilbert and Monica Teodoro, respectively,

JC has 3 firms

Even a less-affluent candidate like Kapatiran Party’s John Carlos De los Reyes is in penalty of non-disclosure of his being an incoporator of one entity: the Solidarity and Common Good Movement of the Philippines, Inc., which filed its articles of incorporation with the SEC on January 4, 2008.

The corporation was registered with the Commission on January 7, 2008. No such entity is listed in de los Reyes’s 2008 SALN. Aside from this entity, De Los Reyes had admitted in GMA Network’s television segment Votebook that aired in early April 2010 that he owns two more business interests – a brick manufacturing business called Legobrick and a water refilling station called Water Plus.

Neither business appears in De los Reyes’s 2008 SALN, according to the Votebook episode.

Villar’s web of firms

As may be expected, Villar, the wealthiest of the nine candidates for president, has not disclosed the most number of business interests and financial connections.

The SALNs that he had filed from 2001 to 2009 are typically sparse and scarce with data that could fully explain his P1.04-billion net worth as of 2008, which slid just slightly to P947.8 million in 2009.

Records show that his spouse Las Piñas representative Cynthia A. Villar is listed as an officer and stockholder of Gourmet Garage Inc., a company registered with the SEC on June 10, 2002.

The congresswoman has subscribed shares worth P84,400 in Gourmet Garage, which is engaged in establishing, operating and maintaining restaurants, coffee shops, refreshment parlors, cocktail lounges, and catering, according to the company’s 2007 and 2008 GIS.

Gourmet Garage, Inc. is not listed in at least the 2007 and 2008 joint SALNs of Manny and Cynthia Villar.

The Villar couple listed only two companies – Fine Properties, Inc. and Adelfa Properties, Inc. – in their joint SALN for 2008.

SEC data also show that Manny and Cynthia Villar are listed as incorporators of Villar Foundation, according to the foundation’s 2009 GIS. Villar Foundation is not listed in at least the 2009 SALN of the couple.

In their 2009 SALN, the Villars listed four companies, including two that they had reported in prior-years’ SALNs but unloaded in their 2008 SALN.

The four companies enrolled in the 2009 SALN of the Villar couple are Fine Properties, Inc., M.B. Villar Co. Inc., Macys, Inc., and Mooncrest Property Development.

Adelfa Properties, Inc. is no longer listed in the 2009 SALN of the Villars.

A reverse-search analysis of SEC records, as well as copies of the pertinent articles of incorporation and general information sheets, show that at least 29 other firms appear to be related to the Villars directly or through their holding companies and other corporations in which they have equity interest.

For instance, both Fine Properties and Adelfa Properties are listed as major stockholders, with shares worth over P3 billion and P1.9 billion, respectively, in the Villars’s publicly-listed real estate holding firm, Vista Land and Lifescapes, Inc.

According to Vista Land’s 2009 GIS, Fine Properties owns 35.63 percent, and Adelfa Properties, 22.48 percent, of Vista Land’s total stocks. The Villars’s sons, Manuel Paolo and Mark, are both members of the board of directors of Vista Land and Lifescapes.

Which owns which?

An investment holdings company, Vista Land has four subsidiaries: Britanny Corp. Camella Homes, Inc. (formerly C & P Homes, Inc.), Crown Asia Properties, Inc., and Crown Communities Holdings, Inc.

From these four Vista Land subsidiaries, the companies in which the Villars appear to have direct or associated interests branch out like a multi-layered cobweb of corporate entities, yet withnearly all represented by the same corporate executives, officers, and lawyers that represent and run the big Villar entities.

Camella Homes, Inc. (formerly C & P Homes, Inc.), a real estate company, also has subsidiaries: Mandalay Resources, Inc. and Household Development Corp.

Fine Properties is a stockholder of Household Development Corp. with paid-up capital worth P4 million, according to Household Development Corp.’s 2009 GIS.

Crown Communities Holdings, Inc., which changed its name to Communities Philippines, Inc., has at least 13 subsidiaries, representing the multiple property-development projects across the Philippines of the Villar companies.

Communities Philippines now consists of 13 companies that have separately registered with the SEC, namely Communities Batangas, Inc., Communities Pangasinan, Inc., Communities Bulacan, Inc., Communities Naga, Inc., Communities Pampanga, Inc., Communities Iloilo, Inc., Communities Cebu, Inc., Communities Davao, Inc., Communities Tarlac, Inc., Communities General Santos City, Inc., Communities Negros Occidental, Inc., Communities Leyte, Inc., and Communities Isabela, Inc.

As for Adelfa Properties, Inc., one of its major stockholders, Althorp Holdings Inc., is a subsidiary of Cambridge Group, Inc.

Cambridge Group, in turn, lists four subsidiaries: Carissa Homes, Casa Regalia, San Marino Homes, and Towns and Villas, Inc., according to its 2009 GIS.

Adelfa is also listed as a major stockholder in Polar Property Holdings Corp. According to the 2009 GIS of Polar Property Holdings, Adelfa has subscribed shares worth P2.57 billion, owning 53 percent of the company’s total stocks.

Polar Property Holdings, meanwhile, controls Polar Mines Realty Ventures, Inc., another real estate entity of the Villars.

Cross-sale deal

On October 29, 2009, Vista Land in a disclosure notice to the Philippine Stock Exchange (PSE) said that it had entered into an agreement with Polar Property Holdings “for the sale and conveyance of Polar Property in favor of VLL of its shares and subscription to shares of Polar Mines Realty Ventures, Inc.” representing total amount of P702.65 million.

In exchange for the shares and receivables of Polar Realty, Vista Land transferred to Polar Property 320,686,000 shares of Vista Land to Polar Property by way of a cross-sale through the PSE.

The shares-swap increased Polar Property’s interests in Vista Land from 5.35 percent to 9.11 percent, even as Polar Property and Vista Land acknowledged in the disclosure notice that they have common directors (including Manuel Paolo Villar) and a common significant shareholder, Adelfa Properties, Inc.

This multi-layered corporate structure is at best complicated to both untrained eye and even regulators.

Controlling interest?

The set-up may allow for indirect relationship of shareholders and companies, according to Ferdinand Sales, assistant director of the SEC’s Corporate and Partnership Registration Division.

Sales explains that if Stockholder A is one of the stockholders of Corporation A, and Corporation A is stockholder in Corporation X, when Corporation X declares dividends, this will definitely accrue to Corporation A and will constitute part of the retained earnings of Corporation A.

“(W)hen Corporation A declares a dividend, then that will be the time that it will accrue to Incorporator A. But, definitely, Corporation X cannot declare a dividend directly to Stockholder A of Corporation A unless Stockholder A is also stockholder in Corporation X,” he says.

Professor Rafael Rodriguez, former dean of the University of the Philippines College of Business Administration, affirms Sales’s explanation as correct. But Rodriguez says the size and degree of control of the shareholders in both companies are also critical pegs of analysis.

“If I’m just an ordinary owner, a small owner of A and A owns X, normally I won’t have control of X,” he says. “But this changes, of course, if I have very large interest – in fact, if I own Corporation A completely, and Corporation A owns a major share of Corporation X. “

In the professor’s view, bigness of interests may also command degree of control in companies, no matter how multi-layered the set-up is. “I can dictate as, let’s say, president of Corporation A: ‘Here’s what you do, this and that’,” he explains. “So there are separate things.”

A corporation is, of course, governed by a board of directors, and the members of the board are elected by shareholders in proportion to their stockholdings.

Says Rodriguez: “If you have just one stock share, you have just one vote. That’s why the small stockholders are unable to elect directors.”

The picture changes for big shareholders who can command enough clout to elect some or all the company directors, he says.

Failure of candidates

“For example,” says Rodriguez, “the corporation has nine directors. Those nine directors will elect the president, the chairman of the board…If you own the corporation, all of those nine are yours, they’re all your people. So you’ll say, ‘We will vote this person for president. If you don’t do as I say, I can have you thrown out and replaced.’ So you control all those nine.”

In more realistic cases, Rodriguez says, “it’s enough that you control 60 percent of the corporation because out of the nine, you need five. When voting time comes, when four want this person as president but I want you for the post, well, I have five votes and they’re just four so I win even though I don’t own the entire corporation.”

The failure of the candidates to disclose the foundations in which they are stockholders or officers is a breach of the SALN law, according to Arpee Jao, special investigator IV of the Civil Service Commission’s legal affairs office. The law specifies, in fact, that foundations should be disclosed in the SALN.

But Jao says that the disclosure of associated business interests is not strictly prescribed in the law. She adds that there is no need for an official to declare another firm in which the company directly related to him or her has stocks in.

“What it just required is for you as an official or employee of government to disclose where you are putting your money, where you are earning,” she says. “(If) you have invested your money for a certain number of stocks to Corporation A, so it is Corporation A which will be giving you in return, dividends or earnings based on your shares, ‘di ba? So it is with Corporation A that you have your financial connection, because it is with Corporation A that you have directly invested and not with Corporation X.” – With additional research by JC Cordon, PCIJ, May 2010

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

Palace can't appoint Sandigan chief – SC

Palace can’t appoint Sandigan chief – SC
By Edu Punay
The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines – The recent ruling of the Supreme Court (SC) allowing President Arroyo to appoint the next chief justice has effectively barred her from making midnight appointments to positions in the lower courts.

This was emphasized by court administrator and SC spokesman Midas Marquez who said that the rule prohibiting the appointment of judges and justices in appellate courts, based on the 1998 decision on the appointments of Judges Mateo Valenzuela and Placido Vallarta, still stands.

The SC on Tuesday upheld a March 17 ruling exempting the SC from the constitutional ban on midnight appointments. The ruling in effect gave the President the go-signal to appoint the successor of retiring Chief Justice Reynato Puno.

“This final decision of the court only covers appointments to the SC, not to the Sandiganbayan and positions in the lower courts,” Marquez explained.

He said the court rejected a government plea to exempt the entire judiciary from the ban.

“There are nine participating justices who voted to affirm the March 17 ruling. So in order to overturn Vallarta to exempt the entire judiciary from the ban on midnight appointment, there must be at least seven justices who would favor that the ban extend not only to SC but to the entire justices as well,” he said.

Marquez said five magistrates led by Associate Justice Lucas Bersamin voted to overturn the Valenzuela-Vallarta ruling.

The others were Justices Jose Perez, Roberto Abad, Martin Villarama Jr. and Teresita Leonardo-de Castro.

Four other justices, on the other hand, had taken the position that appellate and lower courts should not be covered by the exemption.

They were Associate Justices Arturo Brion, Jose Mendoza, Mariano del Castillo and Diosdado Peralta.

The top post in the Sandiganbayan became vacant following the death of Norberto Geraldez from pancreatic cancer complications barely a month after his appointment.

Senior Justice Edilberto Sandoval has been designated acting presiding justice of the anti-graft court.

Acquiescence

While aching to name the next chief justice, Malacañang said it would abide by the SC ruling against midnight appointments to the Sandiganbayan and the lower courts.

“The High Court has spoken, we would abide by it,” deputy presidential spokesman Gary Olivar said.

He said the Palace has also asked Justice Secretary Alberto Agra to respond to the summons of the SC to comment on questions regarding his concurrent position as Solicitor General.

“Our stand there is for Secretary Agra to comply with whatever the Supreme Court is asking him to explain or to do,” he said.

Olivar said President Arroyo would not knowingly make an illegal appointment in the case of Agra’s dual posts.

Senator’s appeal

Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel Jr., meanwhile, called on President Arroyo to inhibit from appointing Puno’s successor despite the SC ruling.

“There is still a remedy and that is for Gloria to inhibit herself from appointing the chief justice,” Pimentel said during the Kapihan sa Senado yesterday.

“The incumbent president who only has a few weeks remaining in power, out of prudence and delicadeza, should not take up the matter of appointing a new chief justice,” he added.

Pimentel reiterated his stand that the SC might have erred when it ruled in a majority decision that Mrs. Arroyo may appoint a new chief justice despite a constitutional ban on midnight appointments.

“It’s not a question whether the SC rules with finality, the question is whether the ruling of the SC is right or wrong and it should be defended by the SC publicly,” Pimentel added.

Pimentel, a veteran lawyer, maintained that the SC was “certainly wrong by the standards of the Constitution and of the law.”

He noted that the President may appoint people as long as she is president, but the appointment of the chief justice is not obligatory immediately after a vacancy.

“It will be very imprudent of the President to appoint a new chief justice considering the circumstances,” Pimentel said.

JBC list almost ready

President Arroyo will get the list of nominees for the incoming SC chief justice from the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) next month, Quezon City Rep. Matias Defensor said yesterday.

“There is no need to rush the submission of the list because Chief Justice Reynato Puno is retiring on May 17 yet,” he said.

Defensor sits in the council as representative of the House of Representatives, where he chairs the committee on justice.

He said most likely, the JBC would send the list to Mrs. Arroyo shortly before Puno retires.

He said the council would still have to vote on when to submit the list and who would be in it.

The council has interviewed four applicants for Puno’s job. They are Associate Justices Renato Corona, Arturo Brion and Teresita de Castro of the SC, and Sandiganbayan Justice Edilberto Sandoval.

Two other applicants – SC Associate Justice Antonio Carpio and Conchita Morales – have said they would not accept an appointment from Mrs. Arroyo.

The two said the President would be violating the constitutional ban on midnight appointments if she named Puno’s successor.

There are speculations that the President prefers Corona over Carpio, who is the most senior associate justice.

Defensor confirmed that Corona was almost in tears when he faced the JBC. On the day he was interviewed, the Philippine Bar Association came out with newspaper ads criticizing Corona and his wife, who is an appointee of Mrs. Arroyo in Camp John Hay in Baguio City.

“He felt that the criticisms were unfair, that he was happy with his family and that was all that mattered to him, that he did not need the job of chief justice,” Defensor said.

He revealed that he and his Senate counterpart in the JBC, Sen. Francis Escudero, would still push for the inclusion of Carpio and Morales in the JBC list.

“We should not preempt the President and her successor. Who knows, she might not exercise her right to appoint the next chief justice and leave it to the next president,” he said.

He said if Mrs. Arroyo does not exercise such right, her successor could not consider Carpio and Morales if their names are not in the JBC list.

“Remember that the President can appoint only from the list of nominees submitted by the JBC. So we have to include them in our list, just in case,” he added. Jess Diaz, Christina Mendez and Paolo Romero

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

Palace: That’s JBC’s view

Palace: That’s JBC’s view
By TJ Burgonio
Philippine Daily Inquirer

MANILA, Philippines—Malacañang on Saturday belittled the Judicial and Bar Council’s (JBC) scathing comment on the Supreme Court’s ruling authorizing President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to appoint the next Chief Justice despite an election period ban on “midnight appointments.”

“That’s the view of the JBC,” Charito Planas, deputy presidential spokesperson, said over government-run dzRB radio. She was referring to the JBC comment criticizing the high tribunal for not dismissing petitions to rule immediately on the authority of Ms Arroyo to name the next Chief Justice after Chief Justice Reynato Puno retires on May 17, which falls within the election period.

The petitions were premature because the JBC had not yet decided whether or not to submit its list of nominees to Malacañang, the JBC said.

The high court had ruled that the judiciary was not covered by the constitutional ban on executive appointments during an election period. Its March 17 ruling also said that Ms Arroyo could even appoint Puno’s successor without a shortlist from the JBC “in an extreme case.”

Planas said the JBC probably issued its critical comment because the Supreme Court’s decision was not yet final and executory.

The high court, she noted, had yet to rule on the motions for reconsideration.

“The President will be guided by that decision, and so should we,” she said.

For now, Planas said, the public should refrain from speculating and await the final decision of the high tribunal to sustain or junk its earlier ruling.

“We have no choice but to wait,” she said. With a report from Rey M. Nasol, Inquirer Southern Luzon

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

Carpio declines anew chief justice nomination

Carpio declines anew chief justice nomination
By Edu Punay
The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines – Supreme Court (SC) Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio reiterated to the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) yesterday that he does not want to be named chief justice by President Arroyo.

Replying to the JBC’s invitation for an interview, Carpio said the Constitution bans Mrs. Arroyo from naming the successor to Chief Justice Reynato Puno, who will retire on May 17.

“I wish to reiterate that I am not interested to be nominated to the said position at this time,” read the letter.

Earlier, the 60-year-old Carpio, the most senior SC justice, accepted his nomination for the post of chief justice on condition that he would be named by the next president.

Justice Secretary Alberto Agra, a JBC member, told reporters they would discuss whether Carpio would be included in the shortlist to be submitted to Mrs. Arroyo.

Members of the JBC are divided on the issue, he added.

Agra said some JBC members believe that those who have signified lack of interest in their nomination should not be included in the shortlist, even if they are qualified.

“Again, all the six nominees were invited for the interview,” he said.

“We are hoping that they will attend. If they don’t, then JBC should meet to discuss what is the implication of such an absence.

“Some of us may think this is a waiver and therefore an abandonment of one’s nomination and acceptance. Some of us may just say regardless of his or her absence, we will still submit the name.”

OSG: Judiciary appointments  are not midnight appointments

Appointments in the judiciary cannot be considered midnight appointments because they pass through the JBC, according to the Office of the Solicitor General.

Raising this argument, the OSG asked the SC yesterday to affirm its ruling last month allowing President Arroyo to appoint the next chief justice and extend the exemption to the constitutional ban on midnight appointments to the entire judiciary.

“There can be no midnight appointments when we speak of the judiciary because of the indispensable and deliberate participation of the JBC,” the OSG said.

“No midnight appointments in judiciary since JBC publishes list, accepts complaints, conducts interviews and submits shortlist to the President.”

The OSG also asked the SC to clarify whether Mrs. Arroyo can also appoint judges in trial courts and justices in appellate courts and reverse its 1998 decision on the appointments of Judges Mateo Valenzuela and Placido Vallarta.

“There is merit in the ruling of this Honorable Court that Valenzuela and Vallarta should be reversed,” the OSG said.

“The framers never intended to extend the prohibition contained in Section 15, Article VII to the appointments to the judiciary. Otherwise, they could have explicitly done so.”

Agra, concurrent solicitor general, said the SC could still declare the entire judiciary as exempted from the midnight appointments ban.

“Since the issue is now with the Supreme Court, we believe the Court has prerogative to rule on this,” he said.

The OSG said the JBC’s principal function is to recommend appointees to the judiciary and to prepare a list of nominees for every vacancy from which the President will choose his or her appointee.

“This duty is unqualified,” the OSG said.

“Consequently, it is a ministerial duty which respondent JBC is mandated to perform under the Constitution.

“To be sure, this ministerial duty to submit its list to the President is separate and distinct from its discretionary duty to determine who its nominees will be.

“As regards the latter, it can only be compelled to act, but not act one way or another.”

The OSG said contrary to the claims of critics, the SC did not infringe upon the independence of the JBC, a constitutional body, when it ruled on the petitions.

“The exercise of jurisdiction over these cases is not an infringement upon the independence but an affirmation of the supremacy of the rule of law,” he said.

“The Court was not exercising its power of supervision but its judicial power when it took cognizance of the cases and rendered the assailed decision.

“Such exercise of jurisdiction was proper and entirely within its constitutional duty to settle actual controversies with its exercise of judicial power.”

The case is included in the SC’s agenda for its session in Baguio City today, according to court administrator and SC spokesman Jose Midas Marquez.