Press Release
April 7, 2010


Asserting that "the era where justices of the Supreme Court were considered as 'mouthpieces of divinity' is long gone," Senate Minority Leader Aquilino Q. Pimentel Jr. asked the Supreme Court yesterday to reverse its decision allowing the President to appoint a new chief justice.

In a motion for intervention, Pimentel said that the high court's decision on March 17, 2010, "runs counter to the principle" that republican constitutions establish "limitations to the power of officials in whose hands government authority is lodged momentarily."

Pimentel said that the court should take a second look at the dissenting opinion of Justice Conchita Carpio-Morales which "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."

Adding to Justice Carpio-Morales's dissent, Pimentel said that if the decision of the Court in question is not altered, it would lead to "an absurd situation where temporary appointments to the judiciary would, thus, become a reality" and the Supreme Court would be amending the Constitution instead of just interpreting it.

Citing precedents, Pimentel said that "constitutional principles should be strictly construed so as to assure the people of their steady application to the activities of their daily lives unless there is an absolute necessity to re-construe them, again, for the greater benefit of the body politic.

"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 especially when the language is strongly worded - and unambiguously at that - in the negative."

He emphasized, "Sec. 15, Art. VII is clear and needs no interpretation, the president cannot appoint 'Two months immediately before the next presidential elections and up to the end of his term, xxx except temporary appointments to executive positions when continued vacancies therein will prejudice public service or endanger public safety."

Pimentel said that "the opinion of the majority, 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."

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

Pimentel cited the case of President Joseph Estrada, who was deemed to have "constructively resigned", which "add(ed) to the Constitutionally prescribed circumstances that cause a vacancy in the office of the President..."

"Thus - in addition to the other judicial ratiocinations which may have resonated well with the people - his successor was deemed to have legally replaced him. The adverse consequences of that expanded list of the constitutionally mandated causes of vacancy in the office of the President, however, still hound us to this very day."

Pimentel said "that like a viral infection, a faulty interpretation of one vital provision of the Constitution such as Section 15, Article VII could cause deadly mutations 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."

Finally, the Senate minority leader disputed the claim that the appointment of a new Chief Justice would not matter much in the decision making of a collegial body like the Supreme Court - he being only one of 15 justices.

"If he or she is a strong Chief Justice, say, in the mold of John Marshall (1817-1833) or Earl Warren (1953-1969) of the US Supreme Court, then the Chief Justice can mold the Court to his or her image. But even if he or she is not made of 'sterner stuff', as primus inter pares of the collegial body, he or she can still make a difference in the decisions of the Supreme Court. And the decisions - depending on their intrinsic rationality and the consensus they may evoke from the people - could be good or bad for the Republic."

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