SC unfazed by negative reactions to ruling declaring it legal for PGMA to appoint Puno successor

March 19, 2010 10:10 pm 

By Priam F. Nepomuceno

MANILA, March 19 — The Supreme Court (SC) will not be pressured by the negative sectoral reactions concerning its decision authorizing President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to appoint the successor of Chief Justice Reynato S. Puno who is retiring this coming May 17.

In the same vein, Court Administrator and SC Spokesperson Atty. Jose Midas Marquez advised aggrieved parties just to file their arguments in a motion for reconsideration they intend to submit.

“These are pressures that the court has to be used to. In big cases like these, emotions run high but the court has to decide with reason. We cannot be swayed by emotions,” he stressed.

“The court is guided by the provisions of the Constitution. Of course, there will be those who will disagree with the decision of the court. The Supreme Court is the ultimate interpreter of the Constitution, that’s the role of the court and the court will do that role,” he added.

Marquez stated that those who criticize the SC ruling “are the very same people who have already given their views even before the petitions were filed.”

“They stand firm on their views and I don’t blame them for that. That is their right. They have the right to express their views. That’s valid exercise of their constitutional right,” he said.

At the same time, Marquez shunned critics for claiming that the ruling was done in haste.

“I don’t think that the decision was arrived at in a haste. I don’t think the court really extraordinarily rushed the decision. We have to remember that the Chief Justice is retiring on May 17, 2010," he pointed out.

He added that after the court has come up with the decision, the parties still have a remedy to file a motion for reconsideration.

Under the rules, the aggrieved party has 15 days from receipt of the decision to file its motion for reconsideration.

The ruling was penned by Associate Justice Lucas Bersamin. Concurring with him were Associate Justices Jose Perez, Roberto Abad, Martin Villarama, Teresa Leonardo-De Castro, Arturo Brion, Diosdado Peralta, Jose Mendoza, and Mariano del Castillo.

Chief Justice Puno and the two front-runners for the position –- Senior Justices Renato Corona and Antonio Carpio –- did not take part in the voting.

A provision in the Constitution states that presidential appointments should no longer be made two months before the elections, but the Supreme Court ruled that the provision does not cover the judiciary but only the executive department.

“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,” the SC said.

In the 55-page ruling, the SC explained the intention of the framers of the Constitution was to limit the powers of the President to make appointments in the executive branch.

“The framers did not need to extend the prohibition to appointments in the judiciary, because their establishment of the JBC… had the framers intended to extend the prohibition contained in Section 15, Article VII to the appointment of members of the Supreme Court they could have explicitly done so,” the SC said.

The SC allowed the petitions of Philippine Constitution Association (Philconsa) and lawyers Estelito Mendoza and Arturo de Castro, taking on their argument that the 1987 Constitution clearly spells out the President, in the last few months of her term of office, is not allowed to make an appointment in the executive branch.

The argument was challenged by the Philippine Bar Association, Integrated Bar of the Philippines, National Union of People’s Lawyers and militant party-list groups Bayan and Akbayan, separately filing their petitions maintaining the constitutional ban on midnight appointments.

The SC also upheld the argument of the government, through the Office of the Solicitor General, pointing out the appointment ban, which lasts from 109 to 115 days during the election period, is longer than the 90-day period within which a Supreme Court justice must be appointed under Article VII, Section 4 of the Constitution.

Applying this provision under the appointment ban to the judiciary would result in at least 19 instances when the President would not be able to fill vacancies in the SC.

The SC also dismissed the argument that the judiciary can still have an acting chief justice during the vacancy and allow the next president to make the appointment. Meanwhile, some members of a militant group held a rally on Friday in front of the SC Building along Padre Faura St. in Ermita, Manila, wherein they torched pictures of some magistrates to express their disgust over the recent SC ruling. (PNA) scs/PFN/PTR

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