LAWYERS from Baguio and Benguet have joined the protest against High Court’s recent ruling that allows President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to appoint a new Chief Justice despite an appointment ban.

Bearing placards, streamers and a wreath, the Baguio-Benguet chapter of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) marched from the Justice Hall of Baguio and proceeded to the Supreme Court (SC) office in Baguio City to denounce its move.

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IBP Baguio-Benguet President Daniel Mangallay said that “out of delicadeza,” President Arroyo should not appoint the next SC chief justice and instead allow the next President to do so.

Court spokesman Jose Midas Marquez, however, said earlier that contrary to what some critics are saying, the people can expect an Arroyo-appointed chief justice to be more independent as he or she performs a crucial role after the May 10 elections.

Marquez said trouble could arise if an acting chief justice was named after SC incumbent Chief Justice Renato Puno’s retirement and the proclamation of the winning president were challenged before the SC, sitting as the Presidential Electoral Tribunal.

Puno will retire on May 17, seven days after the elections.

Veteran lawyer Pablito Sanidad said the same scenario occurred during former President Fidel Ramos’s term when he attempted to appoint a replacement for then Chief Justice Andres Narvasa.

“We thought it ended there,” he said, citing a provision of the law, which stated that two months before the elections, the President could not appoint anyone in any position except in the executive department but on temporary basis only.

Sanidad said not even a judge in the Regional Trial Court could be appointed at this time.

“The President should give due courtesy,” he added.

Security guards assigned at the SC compound, meanwhile, removed the streamers that the lawyers attempted to install at the SC’s gate during the protest.

The IBP said they “decided to hold the rally now” than wait for the SC’s summer session on April 5.

“It might be too late if we wait until they arrive for their summer session,” Mangallay said. (With reports from Sunnex)