MANILA -- The High Court reminded Malacañang Sunday that it cannot use the tribunal’s recent ruling allowing the President to appoint the next Chief Justice in assigning officials in other government offices to various posts.
Supreme Court (SC) Administration Jose Midas Marquez said the March 17 decision of the High Court, in so far as the petitions are concerned, does not grant authority to President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to appoint people to various posts in the government, as it applies only to the justices of the SC and not to the entire Judiciary.
Marquez was referring to the so-called “midnight appointment” of 87-year-old businessman Alfonso Yuchengco to the position of Philippine Ambassador to Germany.
Yuchengco replaced Delia Domingo-Albert, who was unceremoniously removed on the day she was given the Most Outstanding Filipino Woman in Global Diplomacy award in Malacañang.
“The SC decision as concurred in by nine justices, and which is not yet final, only exempts appointments to the SC from the ban,” Marquez said.
The ruling is still subject to review via a motion for reconsideration by the parties.
Thus, the Palace is still precluded from making appointments or dismissals pursuant to the election ban under Section 15, Article VII of the Constitution, until the end of President Arroyo’s term of office on June 30, Marquez said.
Last March 17, nine of the 15 justices voted that Arroyo is allowed by law to appoint the successor of Chief Justice Reynato Puno, who will retire on May 17, upon reaching the mandatory retirement age of 70.
The High Court, however, did not rule as to whether the exemption also applies to other posts in the judiciary and in other constitutional offices.
Aside from the appointment of Yuchengco, Arroyo also named her classmate and aerobics instructor Cynthia Carreon as head of the Tourism Promotions Board, as well as Mark Lapid as chief operating officer of the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority.
Among the top executives replaced were National Museum director Cora Alvina and Bureau of Animal Industry director Dave Catbagan.
Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management Corp. Chief Executive officer Jose Ibazeta was also assigned as officer-in-charge of the Department of Energy, following the resignation of Energy Secretary Angelo Reyes, who accepted the nomination of party-list group 1-Utak.
Also, former Manila International Airport Authority general manager Alfonso Cusi was named head of another newly created agency, the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines.
The appointments of at least 15 officials, including the entire boards of the National Museum and the National Historical Institute, were only made known to the public early last week.
But the Palace said the appointment papers were signed before March 1. It even said Saturday that it’s ready to defend the President’s so-called “midnight appointments” before a Senate investigation, which is expected to start when Congress resumes sessions on May 31. (ECV/Sunnex)