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#11 ARTURO M. DE CASTRO vs. JUDICIAL AND BAR COUNCIL (JBC) G. R. No. 191002 March 17, 2010.

Facts: This case is based on multiple cases field with dealt with the controversy that has arisen from the forthcoming compulsory requirement of Chief Justice Puno on May 17, 2010 or seven days after the presidential election. On December 22, 2009, Congressman Matias V. Defensor, an ex officio member of the JBC, addressed a letter to the JBC, requesting that the process for nominations to the office of the Chief Justice be commenced immediately. In its January 18, 2010 meeting en banc, the JBC passed a resolution which stated that they have unanimously agreed to start the process of filling up the position of Chief Justice to be vacated on May 17, 2010 upon the retirement of the incumbent Chief Justice. As a result, the JBC opened the position of Chief Justice for application or recommendation, and published for that purpose its announcement in the Philippine Daily Inquirer and the Philippine Star. In its meeting of February 8, 2010, the JBC resolved to proceed to the next step of announcing the names of the following candidates to invite to the public to file their sworn complaint, written report, or opposition, if any, not later than February 22, 2010. Although it has already begun the process for the filling of the position of Chief Justice Puno in accordance with its rules, the JBC is not yet decided on when to submit to the President its list of nominees for the position due to the controversy in this case being unresolved. The compiled cases which led to this case and the petitions of intervenors called for either the prohibition of the JBC to pass the shortlist, mandamus for the JBC to pass the shortlist, or that the act of appointing the next Chief Justice by GMA is a midnight appointment. A precedent frequently cited by the parties is the In Re Appointments Dated March 30, 1998 of Hon. Mateo A. Valenzuela and Hon. Placido B. Vallarta as Judges of the RTC of Branch 62, Bago City and of Branch 24, Cabanatuan City, respectively, shortly referred to here as the Valenzuela case, by which the Court held that Section 15, Article VII prohibited the exercise by the President of the power to appoint to judicial positions during the period therein fixed. ISSUES: 1. W/N the petitioners have legal standing? 2. W/N there is justiciable controversy that is ripe for judicial determination? 3. W/N the incumbent President appoint the next Chief Justice? 4. W/N mandamus and prohibition will lie to compel the submission of the shortlist of nominees by the JBC? HELD: 1. Petitioners have legal standing because such requirement for this case was waived by the Court. Legal standing is a peculiar concept in constitutional law because in some cases, suits are not brought by parties who have been personally injured by the operation of a law or any other government

act but by concerned citizens, taxpayers or voters who actually sue in the public interest. But even if, strictly speaking, the petitioners are not covered by the definition, it is still within the wide discretion of the Court to waive the requirement and so remove the impediment to its addressing and resolving the serious constitutional questions raised. 2. There is a justiciable issue. We hold that the petitions set forth an actual case or controversy that is ripe for judicial determination. The reality is that the JBC already commenced the proceedings for the selection of the nominees to be included in a short list to be submitted to the President for consideration of which of them will succeed Chief Justice Puno as the next Chief Justice. Although the position is not yet vacant, the fact that the JBC began the process of nomination pursuant to its rules and practices, although it has yet to decide whether to submit the list of nominees to the incumbent outgoing President or to the next President, makes the situation ripe for judicial determination, because the next steps are the public interview of the candidates, the preparation of the short list of candidates, and the interview of constitutional experts, as may be needed. The resolution of the controversy will surely settle with finality the nagging questions that are preventing the JBC from moving on with the process that it already began, or that are reasons persuading the JBC to desist from the rest of the process. 3. PROHIBITION UNDER SECTION 15, ARTICLE VII DOES NOT APPLY TO APPOINTMENTS TO FILL A VACANCY IN THE SUPREME COURT OR TO OTHER APPOINTMENST TO THE JUDICIARY. Two constitutional provisions seemingly in conflict: The first, Section 15, Article VII (Executive Department), provides: Section 15. 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. The other, Section 4 (1), Article VIII (Judicial Department), states: Section 4. (1). The Supreme Court shall be composed of a Chief Justice and fourteen Associate Justices. It may sit en banc or in its discretion, in division of three, five, or seven Members. Any vacancy shall be filled within ninety days from the occurrence thereof. Justification of the Supreme Court: First. The records of the deliberations of the Constitutional Commission reveal that the framers devoted time to meticulously drafting, styling, and arranging the Constitution. Such meticulousness indicates that the organization and arrangement of the provisions of the Constitution were not arbitrarily or whimsically done by the framers, but purposely made to reflect their intention and manifest their vision of what the Constitution should contain. The Constitution consists of 18 Articles, three of which embody the allocation of the awesome powers

of government among the three great departments, the Legislative (Article VI), the Executive (Article VII), and the Judicial Departments (Article VIII). The arrangement was a true recognition of the principle of separation of powers that underlies the political structure As can be seen, Article VII is devoted to the Executive Department, and, among others, it lists the powers vested by the Constitution in the President. The presidential power of appointment is dealt with in Sections 14, 15 and 16 of the Article. Had the framers intended to extend the prohibition contained in Section 15, Article VII to the appointment of Members of the Supreme Court, they could have explicitly done so. They could not have ignored the meticulous ordering of the provisions. They would have easily and surely written the prohibition made explicit in Section 15, Article VII as being equally applicable to the appointment of Members of the Supreme Court in Article VIII itself, most likely in Section 4 (1), Article VIII. Although Valenzuela came to hold that the prohibition covered even judicial appointments, it cannot be disputed that the Valenzuela dictum did not firmly rest on the deliberations of the Constitutional Commission. Moreover, the usage in Section 4(1), Article VIII of the word shall an imperative, operating to impose a duty that may be enforced should not be disregarded. Thereby, Sections 4(1) imposes on the President the imperative duty to make an appointment of a Member of the Supreme Court within 90 days from the occurrence of the vacancy. The failure by the President to do so will be a clear disobedience to the Constitution. The 90-day limitation fixed in Section 4(1), Article VIII for the President to fill the vacancy in the Supreme Court was undoubtedly a special provision to establish a definite mandate for the President as the appointing power, and cannot be defeated by mere judicial interpretation in Valenzuela to the effect that Section 15, Article VII prevailed because it was couched in stronger negative language. Second. Section 15, Article VII does not apply as well to all other appointments in the Judiciary. There is no question that one of the reasons underlying the adoption of Section 15 as part of Article VII was to eliminate midnight appointments from being made by an outgoing Chief Executive. Given the background and rationale for the prohibition in Section 15, Article VII, we have no doubt that the Constitutional Commission confined the prohibition to appointments made in the Executive Department. The framers did not need to extend the prohibition to appointments in the Judiciary, because their establishment of the JBC and their subjecting the nomination and screening of candidates for judicial positions to the unhurried and deliberate prior process of the JBC ensured that there would no longer be midnight appointments to the Judiciary. Indeed, the creation of the JBC was precisely intended to de-politicize the Judiciary by doing away with the intervention of the Commission on Appointments. Third. As earlier stated, the non-applicability of Section 15, Article VII to appointments in the Judiciary was confirmed by then Senior Associate Justice Regalado to the JBC itself when it met on March 9, 1998 to discuss the question raised by some sectors about the constitutionality of xxx appointments to the Court of Appeals in light of the forthcoming presidential elections. He assured that on the basis of the (Constitutional) Commissions records, the election ban had no application to appointments to the Court of Appeals. This confirmation was accepted by the JBC, which then submitted to the President for

consideration the nominations for the eight vacancies in the Court of Appeals. Fourth. Of the 23 sections in Article VII, three (i.e., Section 14, Section15, and Section 16) concern the appointing powers of the President. Section 14, Section 15, and Section 16 are obviously of the same character, in that they affect the power of the President to appoint. The fact that Section 14 and Section 16 refer only to appointments within the Executive Department renders conclusive that Section 15 also applies only to the Executive Department. This conclusion is consistent with the rule that every part of the statute must be interpreted with reference to the context, i.e. that every part must be considered together with the other parts, and kept subservient to the general intent of the whole enactment. Fifth. To hold like the Court did in Valenzuela that Section 15 extends to appointments to the Judiciary further undermines the intent of the Constitution of ensuring the independence of the Judicial Department from the Executive and Legislative Departments. Such a holding will tie the Judiciary and the Supreme Court to the fortunes or misfortunes of political leaders vying for the Presidency in a presidential election. Consequently, the wisdom of having the new President, instead of the current incumbent President, appoint the next Chief Justice is itself suspect, and cannot ensure judicial independence, because the appointee can also become beholden to the appointing authority. In contrast, the appointment by the incumbent President does not run the same risk of compromising judicial independence, precisely because her term will end by June 30, 2010. Sixth. The argument has been raised to the effect that there will be no need for the incumbent President to appoint during the prohibition period the successor of Chief Justice Puno within the context of Section 4 (1), Article VIII, because anyway there will still be about 45 days of the 90 days mandated in Section 4(1), Article VIII remaining. The argument is flawed, because it is focused only on the coming vacancy occurring from Chief Justice Punos retirement by May 17, 2010. It ignores the need to apply Section 4(1) to every situation of a vacancy in the Supreme Court. Section 4 (3), Article VII requires the regular elections to be held on the second Monday of May, letting the elections fall on May 8, at the earliest, or May 14, at the latest. If the regular presidential elections are held on May 8, the period of the prohibition is 115 days. If such elections are held on May 14, the period of the prohibition is 109 days. Either period of the prohibition is longer than the full mandatory 90-day period to fill the vacancy in the Supreme Court. The result is that there are at least 19 occasions (i.e., the difference between the shortest possible period of the ban of 109 days and the 90-day mandatory period for appointments) in which the outgoing President would be in no position to comply with the constitutional duty to fill up a vacancy in the Supreme Court. It is safe to assume that the framers of the Constitution could not have intended such an absurdity. Seventh. As a matter of fact, in an extreme case, we can even raise a doubt on whether a JBC list is necessary at all for the President any President to appoint a Chief Justice if the appointee is to come from the ranks of the sitting justices of the Supreme Court. Sec. 9, Article VIII says: xxx. The Members of the Supreme Court xxx shall be appointed by the President from a list of at least

three nominees prepared by the Judicial and Bar Council for any vacancy. Such appointments need no confirmation. xxx The provision clearly refers to an appointee coming into the Supreme Court from the outside, that is, a non-member of the Court aspiring to become one. It speaks of candidates for the Supreme Court, not of those who are already members or sitting justices of the Court, all of whom have previously been vetted by the JBC.

4. WRIT OF MANDAMUS DOES NOT LIE AGAINST THE JBC Mandamus shall issue when any tribunal, corporation, board, officer or person unlawfully neglects the performance of an act that the law specifically enjoins as a duty resulting from an office, trust, or station. It is proper when the act against which it is directed is one addressed to the discretion of the tribunal or officer. Mandamus is not available to direct the exercise of a judgment or discretion in a particular way. For mandamus to lie, the following requisites must be complied with: (a) the plaintiff has a clear legal right to the act demanded; (b) it must be the duty of the defendant to perform the act, because it is mandated by law; (c) the defendant unlawfully neglects the performance of the duty enjoined by law; (d) the act to be performed is ministerial, not discretionary; and (e) there is no appeal or any other plain, speedy and adequate remedy in the ordinary course of law.