Mayhem in Manila

A few days ago, I mentioned President Arroyo’s plans to take out a “judicial insurance policy” by appointing a new Chief Justice in the twilight of her term of office. The Philippine Supreme Court has ruled that Arroyo can make the appointment after Chief Justice Reynato S. Puno retires on May 17 (just a week after the presidential elections), despite what seems like a fairly straightforward ban on midnight appointments under the 1987 Constitution (art. VII, § 15). There’s been a firestorm in the Philippines, with wild allegations from both sides. I’ve pulled out some of the highlights from various news articles, from pro-Arroyo to anti-Arroyo to the downright bizarre.

Ricardo Saludo, Secretary and Presidential Spokesman: 

We do have these elections and, therefore, in the event that the Supreme Court shall have to act as a Presidential Electoral Tribunal, it would be best for a sitting, confirmed, you know, actual, full-fledged Chief Justice to be in charge.

Gary Olivar, Deputy Presidential Spokesman :

It should be an eye-opener for us to see how the opposition, ranging from President Erap’s (Estrada’s) party to the Makati Business Club, has come together not only to denounce the SC ruling as unconstitutional – as if they are the better judge of the issue – but also to scare our people with fantastical talk about presidential holdover, election failure, and even, of all things, martial law.

Estelito Mendoza, a former Solicitor General:

We should no longer look at who appointed the current justices. President Arroyo has been the appointing authority for the past nine years. And we already saw how the Court in many times have ruled on cases unfavorable to the Palace.

Ralph Recto, former Chief Economist for President Arroyo:

The President is in the legacy mode. Simply bequeathing onto her successor the right to name the head of a co-equal branch is one classy act of saying goodbye.

Christian Monsod, former Commission on Elections Chairman, member of the 1986 Constitutional Commission that drafted the 1987 Constitution:

It’s amusing because the Supreme Court added an exemption when there is none. There was no ambiguity in the Constitution, the ambiguity is in the mind of the justices.

Simeon Marcelo, former Ombudsman:

It [the Supreme Court ruling] is shocking to the legal community because the wording of the Constitution here is very clear. There should be no appointments to the judiciary two months before the elections.

Delos Reyes, Ang Kapatiran Party candidate, member of Sagip Korte Suprema (Save the Supreme Court) Movement, a coalition formed in reaction to the decision:

Since there might be a midnight appointment, then there would be a ‘midnight justice’ of a seemingly midnight Supreme Court. Violating the Constitution, statutes, jurisprudence even basic delicadeza has become the standard. We need to reformat this government as viruses of padrino politics have shattered the nation’s central processing unit.

And finally, Delos Reyes again:

A miracle will happen, I just don’t know how and when but I foresee the Lord coming to our rescue.

Yes, it appears things have gotten that bad!

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