Arroyo camp denies midnight appointments

MANILA -- The camp of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo denied Wednesday any midnight appointments made by the previous administration, following the release of Executive Order (EO) 2 revoking such arrangements.

Elena Bautista-Horn, spokesperson of Arroyo, who is now a representative of Pampanga province, said no appointments were made beyond the prohibited period because all were submitted to the Presidential Management Staff, which reviews the recommendations from the Career Executive Service Board.

"Define po natin kung ano yung midnight appointment kasi po sa aming definition ang midnight appointment po ay ginawa during sa prohibition under the Constitution (Let us define midnight appointment because based on our definition, it is something done during the prohibition period under the Constitution)," said Horn.

Article VII, Section 15 of the Constitution states: "Two months immediately before the next Presidential elections and up to the end of his term, a President or Acting President shall not make appointments, except temporary appointments to executive positions when continued vacancies therein will prejudice public service or endanger public safety."

Believing that Arroyo violated this Constitutional ban on midnight appointments two months before the May 10 elections, President Benigno Aquino III issued Wednesday EO 2, recalling, withdrawing, and revoking those who will be proven as midnight appointees of the previous administration.

Considered as midnight appointees are the following:

* Those made on or after March 11, 2010, including all appointments bearing dates prior to March 11, 2010 where the appointee has accepted, or taken his oath, or assumed public office on or after March 11, 2010, except temporary appointments in the executive positions when continues vacancies will prejudice public service or endanger public safety as may be determined by the appointing authority.

* Those made prior to March 11, 2010 but to take effect after said date or appointments to office that would be vacant only after March 11, 2010.

* Appointments and promotions made during the period of 45 days prior to the May 11, 2010 elections in violation of Section 261 of the Omnibus Election Code.

Presidential Legal Counsel Eduardo de Mesa said valid appointees are only those who completed appointment process on or before March 10.

"If the appointment is completed before March 10, meaning the appointment was issued, took oath and assume office before March 10, then their appointment is presumably valid unless suffered from other legal infirmities," the President explained.

977 appointees

De Mesa also said they are determining the validity of some 977 appointees of President Arroyo.

If proven guilty, de Mesa said the appointment will be immediately revoked. The Executive Secretary, he added, has been authorized to designate officer-in-charge for the vacant positions.

But Horn said public servants are governed by civil service rules and not by the Labor Code, citing that one can only be removed from the post if he or she committed any wrongdoing.

Most of the positions included in the midnight appointee list are prosecutors, provincial agrarian reform officers, undersecretaries and assistant secretaries.

Horn noted that the government officials and employees affected by EO 2 may question the said decision to the Supreme Court (SC).

Corona excluded

To make the process faster, President Aquino has tasked all government departments to determine and submit list of those who have been appointed prior to March 10.

De Mesa said some appointments were antedated, giving them difficulty in determining and collating list of midnight appointees.

No time frame was given to the departments to find out all midnight appointees, but De Mesa said they are expecting to complete the list as soon as possible.

In the case of Chief Justice Renato Corona, whose appointment was questioned by President Aquino, de Mesa said it is not an issue to the President anymore.

"That is obvious by now. The President has acknowledged Corona as Chief Justice," he said.

Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said Aquino already recognized the position of Corona since the SC upheld the legality of the Chief Justice appointment.

"President Aquino accepted his appointment only after the Supreme Court came out with the decision saying that the appointment of Corona is valid decision. So that is settled now," he noted.

Despite hoping that there are no petitions to be filed before the court questioning EO 2, de Mesa said it is still the prerogative especially of those who will be affected by the order.

De Mesa also said that former President Arroyo cannot be held liable for the action since she enjoyed immunity at the time she made the appointments.

"We still have to consider if there was a crime committed but it could have been just an administrative error, which punishment is removal from office," he added.

Relaxed Arroyo

De Mesa said President Aquino can only nullify the appointments of Arroyo, who, according to Horn, is now feeling more relaxed than when she was working in Malacañang.

Arroyo's work now focuses on her district in Pampanga with her 62 bills already filed in the House -- nine of which she authored while the 53 she co-authored.

Arroyo also filed a House resolution seeking amendments in the Philippine Constitution through a constitutional convention.

Horn said that Arroyo has not expressed any intent to join any House committee so far. (Jill Beltran/Kathrina Alvarez/Sunnex)

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