Sen. Aquino’s Position on Supreme Court Succession Gets Flak Special

Posted Jan 15, 2010 by Antonio Figueroa
MANILA –Sen. Benigno ‘Noynoy’ Aquino III was criticized for his “dangerous” position in forewarning the Supreme Court against accepting any appointment the outgoing President might make for the position of Chief Justice.
Aquino, only son of the late President Corazon Aquino and the leading Philippine presidential bet for the May 2010 elections, made it clear in an email relayed to journalists yesterday that his position on the Chief Justice succession issue is not to recognize any appointment 60 days before the term of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo expires on June 30.
"If elected president,” he said, “I will not recognize a Chief Justice appointed by the outgoing President, contrary to the constitutional ban on appointments during the wee hours of her presidency, and contrary to propriety and delicadeza (propriety) and long-standing precedence of prohibition against appointments two months before the outgoing president's term expires.”
”Let me forewarn any member of the Supreme Court who shall accept to be Chief Justice by appointment of the outgoing President, that not only shall he not be recognized, but he risks even his presence in the Court as an associate member," he added.
Under the 1987 Constitution, appointments done 60 days before the President’s tenure expires are proscribed, but such proviso does not specifically mention selections involving the Judiciary.
Another constitutional provision imbues the President the power to appoint justices to the high tribunal within 90 days, but with the retirement of Chief Justice Reynato Puno on May 17, his 70th birthday, appointing any replacement falls within the prohibition period.
Reacting to Aquino’s strong statement, Adel Tamano, a Muslim lawyer running for the Senate under the Nacionalista Party, in a press conference held today, expressed support for the senator’s call for the President to defer any appointment to the high tribunal but called the senator’s remarks as “disrespectful.”
Tamano, a former university president, cautioned Sen. Aquino that his caveat was “dangerous and shows a lack of understanding of constitutional processes,” adding the removal of a sitting SC justice is not an executive action but a legislative process.
Earlier, House Speaker Prospero C. Nograles, a bar topnotcher, issued a statement clarifying the appointment of the next chief justice during the remainder of President Arroyo’s term has no constitutional impediment.
This position reechoed an earlier statement made by Senate President Juan Ponce-Enrile the President can appoint an acting SC chief justice even without the recommended list from the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC), the body authorized under the law to screen applicants and submit the top five nominees from where the next SC justice is picked out.
Enrile, a respected lawyer, said the President can legally appoint the successor of Justice Puno once he retires, saying the appointee does need to undergo review by the JBC if the next chief justice is chosen from the ranks of sitting SC magistrates.
Moreover, Nograles said that “national security and national interest dictate there ought to be no hiatus in the judiciary, especially during the crucial period when the nation is holding the national and local elections.”
Under the Charter, the chief justice heads the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET) which acts as the sole judge for all conflicts and cases relating to the election, returns and qualifications of candidates for president and vice president.