ONE of the interveners against petitions on whether President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo may appoint the next chief justice despite the onset of the election ban has asked the Supreme Court (SC) to hold oral arguments first before ruling on the issue.

In his seven-page motion filed on March 8, lawyer Peter Irving Corvera said the Court need to set the petitions for oral arguments “in order to thresh out the constitutional issues raised in the petitions.”

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“Considering the transcendental importance of the constitutional issues presented and the pressing need to resolve the instant petition before the effectivity of the ban on midnight appointments, which begins on March 10, 2010 until June 30, 2010, oppositor Corvera respectfully prays that the case be heard on oral argument before the Honorable Court,” he said.

Corvera, president of IBP-Pasay/Paranaque/Las Pinas/Muntinlupa chapter, filed an Opposition to the consolidated petitions filed by the Philippine Constitution Association (Philconsa), and lawyers Arturo Castro and Estelito Mendoza.

The petitioners are of the belief that Section 15, Article VII of the Constitution, which prohibits appointments during election period, does not include appointments to the judiciary, thus enabling the incumbent President to appoint the successor of Chief Justice Reynato Puno, who will vacate his post upon his retirement on May 17.

The Court has summarized the issues that it need to resolve: whether the Judicial and Bar Council may withhold the transmission of shortlist of nominees, and, in effect, has the power to determine whether the incumbent president can appoint Puno’s successor; and, whether Arroyo can still appoint the next chief justice upon Puno’s retirement despite the election ban.

Corvera said setting the case for oral arguments will provide all the parties the opportunity to be heard and respond.

Aside from Corvera, lawyer Christian Robert Lim also filed a similar motion seeking to set the petitions.

“Movant-intervener respectfully requests that the Honorable Court hear the legal arguments of the parties by oral argument, considering that the instant case involves issues of transcendental importance that are imbued with public interest, and entails constitutional issues that are fundamental to the leadership of the firmest pillar of the of the country’s democratic institutions,” Lim said.

Meanwhile, another complaint was filed before the eight-man JBC panel seeking the exclusion of Associate Justice Renato Corona from the list of candidates for the chief justice post.

In his complaint, businessman Joaquin Michel Quintos Sy-Quia said that Corona has obviously sided with the current administration in deciding various petitions with political significance and in anomalies involving Arroyo.

Sy-Quia cited the Court decisions in Chavez vs Gonzalez where Corona dissented in the majority ruling allowing the airing of the so-called “Hello Garci” tapes, which contained the President’s conversation with an poll commissioner during the 2004 elections; in Neri vs Senate where Corona voted with the majority members holding that then National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) Secretary Romulo Neri’s invocation of executive privilege was valid in connection with the NBN-ZTE deal.

Corona also dissented in the case of Province of North Cotabato vs GRP Panel on the creation of the Bangsamoro Juridical Entity was declared unconstitutional by the majority of justices.

In the case of Suzette Nicolas vs Romulo, Corona sided with the majority in upholding the validity of the Visiting Forces Agreement and ordering the Philippine government to transfer US soldier Daniel Smith to a Philippine detention facility.

Corona likewise dissented in the majority decision declaring void the P6.2 billion compromise agreement between the state-run PNCC and Radstock for being unconstitutional.

“By an objective evaluation of his voting record, Justice Corona hardly showed the character required of an esteemed justice of the Supreme Court, much more, of the Chief Justice of the Highest Court of the land,” said Sy-Quia. (JCV/Sunnex)