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A Question on Pres. Arroyo’s Midnight Appointment

May 18, 2010
The Supreme Court is above the law.

The Supreme Court is above the law.

A Facebooker asked me the following question in regard to my strong opposition to outgoing President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s midnight appointment: “Are you familiar with Philippine Laws and its jurisprudence? What do they mean to you?”

Here’s my answer:

Familiarity with the RP laws and jurisprudence is not the only passkey to making a personal comment on this issue. The provision of Section 15, Article VII of the Constitution is very clear. The president cannot make midnight appointments within two months before the next presidential elections and up to the end of the President’s or Acting President’s term. My understanding is that the Supreme Court is a collegial body and that the Chief Justice is a primus inter pares (the first among equals). The contention of the ponente of the majority decision, Justice Lucas Bersamin, that the absence of a chief justice would affect or jeopardize the function of the judiciary is not ratiocination, but rather rationalization of the intent to justify the last-minute or midnight appointment of outgoing President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and that the ban does not extend to the judiciary. Also, my understanding is that the law requires eight (8) justices to constitute a quorum and that the absence of a chief justice for a period of more than one month would not sacrifice the indispensable official function of the highest court of the land.

The ruling on the case of De Castro v. JBC is a dangerous precedent. What the SC did is that it sacrificed the sanctity and inviolability of the Constitution to a possible “doomsday scenario” as a result of the retirement of Chief Justice Reynato Puno. This ‘unconstitutional’ decision of the Supreme Court blasted the long cherished, long established jurisprudence on midnight appointment ban. The framers of the Charter did not simply create this principle for no reason at all. The main purpose of this election ban principle is to preclude the incumbent president from perpetuating his/her executive influence and power by making last-minute appointments. Any executive disregard of this noble principle is tantamount to wanton disrespect for the Constitution, the presidency, and the incoming commander-in-chief.

Furthermore, this election ban principle would give the next president the prerogative to appoint government officials according to his sound judgment and discretion.

It is indeed true that the case had already been sealed by the doctrine of res judicata, but the Supreme Court is not the law of the land. It is not above the law. In fact it is a co-equal branch of the executive and legislative branches of the government. In a semi-free society like the Philippines, the last stand of freedom and legal objectivity is the Supreme Court. But what it did is unconscionable in that it went beyond the mandate of the Constitution by allowing the president to violate one of its strictest, well-intended provisions.

I’m speaking in principle here since the damage has been done. What do you think will happen to a country where laws and constitutional parameters/principles are misinterpreted by the so-called court of last resort? That’s why I said that the case is a dangerous precedent, as it demolished the long established prohibition on ‘midnight appointments.’

I’m opposed to Mrs. Arroyo’s appointment of Associate Justice Renato Corona as the new Chief Justice not because I voted for Sen. Noynoy Aquino who is widely perceived as the president-elect. I didn’t support Aquino because I believe he’s not fit for the job. This is not about partisan politics. It’s about objectivity and the sanctity of the Charter. I’m for legal or constitutional objectivity, although I disagree with some of the provisions of the charter. The ‘prohibition on last-minute’ appointments is a constitutional creature. It is a noble constitutional principle or concept, the underlying purpose of which is to preclude the incumbent president to perpetuate his influence by making last-minute appointments. Outgoing Pres. Arroyo could have offered a smooth transition had she made the right, moral decision: by letting the next president make the appointment.

Lastly, I oppose this latest judicial farce mainly because of its political divisiveness. The Supreme Court should have upheld the sanctity of the Constitution; instead it sanctioned the outgoing President to violate it for the sake of temporary judicial security. History will remember SC Puno as the Chief Justice who undermined the integrity and independence of the Supreme Court.

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. cho Nananene permalink
    May 18, 2010 3:38

    “Are you familiar with Philippine Laws and its jurisprudence? What do they mean to you?”

    My answer is no, but after reading your post, my doubt is justified. However I commented on Mr. Corona on one of my blog; what he said about him ” I am my own person” ” Watch Me”…

    I said we will watch you! and another said; ” We just have to watch ever more closely & remember the word of the man who claim to be the master of his soul and the keeper of his own fate.

    About Mrs. Arroyo ” congratulation you are still the insecure till the very end.”

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