House leader says it's PGMA's prerogative to appoint new SC chief

January 11, 2010 10:52 pm 

By Lilybeth G. Ison

MANILA, Jan. 11 — House Speaker Prospero Nograles said on Monday it's up to President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to accept "unsolicited" advice on the issue of appointing a new Supreme Court chief justice.

"That's up to the President. She may only take that unsolicited advice by some senators who perhaps never supported her anyway and have always been against her administration," said Nograles in a text message.

"It may be very difficult for anyone to accept the advice of known political opponents like they too won't take the President's advice to them," he added.

Senator Francis Pangilinan earlier had called on the President to just let the next president appoint the replacement of Supreme Court Chief Justice Reynato Puno, who is retiring at age 70 on May 17, 2010, which is within the election period that starts 60 days before election day.

An official of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) also claimed that President Arroyo cannot appoint a new Supreme Court chief justice to replace Puno as his retirement date falls within the election period.

Comelec legal department chief Ferdinand Rafanan said that the 1987 Constitution allows the President to make only temporary appointments to executive positions during the election period.

Under Section 11, Article VIII of the 1987 Constitution, all members of the Supreme Court and judges of lower courts shall hold office during good behavior until they reach the age of 70 years or become incapacitated to discharge the duties of their office.

Under Article VII, Section 15 of the Constitution, "Two months immediately before the next presidential elections and up to the end of his 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."

Malacanang, on the other hand, said that President Arroyo can still appoint the next Supreme Court Chief Justice, and is duty-bound to do so to prevent a hiatus or vacuum in the judiciary.

Presidential Political Adviser Prospero Pichay Jr. acknowledged that Article VII, Section 15 limits a President from making appointments, and that the prohibition applies to the Executive Department, not the Supreme Court.

He, however, cited the "exemption" allowing temporary appointments to executive positions when continued vacancies therein will prejudice or endanger public safety. (PNA) scs/LGI

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