MANILA -- Malacañang said Saturday that it is ready to defend President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s “midnight appointments” before a Senate investigation, which will start when Congress resumes sessions on May 31.

Presidential spokesman Ricardo Saludo, however, reminded senators against summoning President Arroyo to the probe, citing the executive and legislative branches of government are co-equal and should extend courtesy to each other.

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“This is the right of the Senate to conduct an investigation and we will see what they will do. Congress resumes in June and we leave it to them to lay down the rules of the investigation,” Saludo said.

Criticized

Arroyo had received flak for a series of so-called midnight appointments, including heads of some government agencies in recent weeks.

Student and militant groups, as well as the civil society across the country have said the President, based on the Philippine Constitution, is barred from making any appointments at the onset of the election ban, which started last March 10 and will last until the of her term on June 30.

But Saludo insisted Saturday that the appointments were made before the deadline and that they were needed because the officials to be replaced were either retiring or running in the May elections.

“The officials to be replaced were to retire or to run for election. The appointment could have spanned months but since there is a March deadline before a ban on appointments kicked in, Mrs. Arroyo had to make several appointments,” he said.

Probe

On Friday, Senator Francis Pangilinan said the Senate will investigate the appointments when Congress resumes sessions.

Both Houses of Congress resume sessions on May 31 and adjourn sine die on June 4.

“We are totally appalled by the shameless abuse of authority. We will make sure that the Senate of the 15th Congress will look into these bogus and illegal appointments and that the guilty parties will be held accountable for their acts,” Pangilinan said.

But Saludo said the Senate investigation should not include President Arroyo as he reminded the Senate of the co-equal branches of government.

“The Constitution decrees the President and Congress are co-equal. If the Senate demands that the President testify, the Constitution will not allow it,” the Palace official added.

At the Department of Justice (DOJ), Secretary Alberto Agra said President Arroyo’s “midnight appointments” were legal and did not violate any laws.

In a radio interview, Agra said the President is not prohibited from appointing officers-in-charge or officials in an acting capacity.

“I will come up with an official statement this coming week. The gist is that the President did not violate any laws in making the appointments,” Agra said. (JMR/Sunnex)