President Benigno Aquino 3rd has breached the 1987 Constitution and the Rules of the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) on clustering of justice nominees to the anti-graft court Sandiganbayan.
Aquino violated the Charter and the JBC rules when he ignored the clustering system observed by the Sandiganbayan when appointed six nominees to posts in the anti-graft court.
According to a well-placed source in the Supreme Court (SC), some JBC members have pointed the constitutional violation committed by the President that should be protested by the council by returning the list of appointees to Malacañang.
The source said these council members will not get support from the head of the JBC–Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno herself–especially with her recent appointment of her “Umbrella Boy”—lawyer Zaldy Trespeses—as associate justice of the Sandiganbayan.
Trespeses supposedly was promoted as a reward for Sereno declaring constitutional the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) between the Philippines and the United States.
The Chief Justice was the ponente of the EDCA case.
“Eh paanong papalag si Sereno sa paglabag ni PNoy [Aquino] sa clustering ng JBC, eh na-appoint na yung Umbrella Boy niya, si Trespeses [How will Sereno rock the boat on the President violating the clustering system of the JBC when Trespeses had already been appointed]?” the source told The Manila Times.
The source wondered how Sereno could tolerate the violation committed by Aquino when she should lead the JBC in defending its clustering rules.
Section 9 of Article VIII of the 1987 Constitution states, “(T)he members of the Supreme Court and judges of the lower courts shall be appointed by the President from a list of at least three nominees prepared by the Judicial and Bar Council for every vacancy. Such appointments need no confirmation.”
This means that the President shall choose only from at least three names shortlisted by the JBC for “every vacancy” only.
But Aquino disregarded the clustering made by nominees and just chose the names of the six appointees for the Sandignbayan position “at random.”
The list of appointees of Aquino to the Sandiganbayan include two Malacanang undersecretaries–Michael Musngi and Reynaldo Cruz.
Next to be appointed are Assistant Solicitor General Karl Miranda, the most senior official in the Office of the Solicitor General, Judge Geraldine Faith Econg and Judge Ma. Theresa Mendoza-Arcega.
On the original JBC shortlist for the Sandiganbayan posts, the order of seniority was even disregarded by Aquino for the 16th to 21st posts.
From the original 15 justices, the anti-graft court will now have 21 justices for its seven divisions.
Musngi and Econg were appointed by the President despite the two being in the same cluster.
A Malacañang source said that while it is true that Aquino ignored the JBC clustering system, they believe that it was within his powers to do so.
But the Malacañang source said the rules “[limit]the appointing power of the President to choose his appointees.”