Press Release
March 28, 2010

High court urged to reverse ruling on appointment of Chief Justice

Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Q. Pimentel, Jr. today asked the Supreme Court to reverse in March l7 ruling which would allow President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to appoint the successor of retiring Chief Justice Reynato Puno despite a "clear" constitutional ban against midnight appointments by the Chief Executive in the judiciary.

In a motion for reconsideration filed with the high tribunal, Pimentel, acting as intervenor, Pimentel argued the opinion of the majority of the l5-man court, "unfortunately, expands the constitutional powers of the President in a manner that is totally repugnant to the principles of republican constitutional democracy."

"It is tantamount to the Court's amending the Constitution without proper authority," the senior parliamentarian from Mindanao asserted.

"It is an impermissible act that not only the Court as an institution but the people as well will rue unless remedied by a timely reconsideration."

Pimentel said the constitutional provision, which restrains the Chief Executive from exercising his authority to appoint judicial officials before the expiration of his or her term, is clear and needs no interpretation.

Section l6, Article VII of the l987 Charter provides that the President cannot issue appointments "Two months immediately before the next presidential elections and up to the end of his term xxx except temporary appointments to executive positions when continue vacancies therein will prejudice public service or endanger public safety."

Pimentel said the Constitution, as a body of restraint or limitations on power, should not be given an expansive interpretation and if interpreted, should not result in the granting of more powers to the concerned Government entity specially when the language is strongly worded - and unambiguously at that - in the negative."

"Simply put, in harmonizing seemingly conflicting provisions of the Constitution, the interpretations should always be one that protects the citizenry from an ever-expanding grant of authority to its representatives," he said.

He told the high tribunal that the dissenting opinion of Justice Conchita Carpio-Morales cogently dissected each argument postulated by the majority of the court, shredded the basis of its individual premises and exposed the irrationality of its conclusions.

Thus, Pimentel requested the Court to take a second look at its ruling not only from the perspective of Justice Morales' well-crafted dissent but from the supplementary angle presented in his intervention.

To add to Justice Morales' dissent, the intervenor submits that if the decision of the Court in question is not altered, then, following the Court's reasoning, Section l5, Article VII of the Constitution, would now be written, so as to exclude a ban on judicial appointments, as follows:

"Section l6, 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 the judicial and executive positions when continued vacancies therein will prejudice public service or endanger public safety."

Pimentel said an absurd situation where temporary appointments to the judiciary would, thus, become a reality.

He also expressed his humble thought that to help prevent a disintegration of "societal consensus," the Court also needs to legitimize its decision for acceptability by the people for whose peace of mind and body, Court rulings are issued.

"While the postulate of the intervenor regarding the need of societal consensus may be questioned as irrelevant to the issue of the appointment of a new Chief of Justice, the fact is that like a vital infection, a faulty interpretation of one vital provision of the Constitution such as section l5, Article VII could cause deadly viruses in the body politic. Like diabetes, unless treated seasonably, the disease may weaken the lungs, the kidneys, and other vital organs of persons and in the end cause cardiac arrest that would certainly end their earthly existence," Pimentel said.

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