The Supreme Court (SC) on Tuesday ordered Malacañang to answer the petition filed by the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) and several judges questioning the appointments of two junior magistrates in the Sandiganbayan.
During its en banc session, the SC magistrates ordered President Benigno Aquino 3rd to file a comment within 10 days.
This shall amplify the issue whether or not Aquino committed an irregularity in the appointment of two Sandiganbayan Justices who belong to the same bracket when it was shortlisted by the Judicial and Bar Council.
In the petition, the IBP claimed that Aquino violated the constitutional rule in handpicking Associate Justices Geraldine Faith Econg and Michael Frederick Musngi from the same shortlist submitted by the JBC.
It cited Section 9, Article VIII of the Constitution, which provides that “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.”
The IBP described the President’s action as a “culpable violation of the Constitution,” which is a ground for impeachment.
With this, the IBP has given the approval of its board of governors to declare as null and void the appointments of Econg and Musngi.
“While the Constitution grants the President leeway to exercise his discretion in appointments to the judiciary by requiring the JBC to submit a list of at least three nominees for every vacancy, this discretion is necessarily restricted by requiring him to select only from the list submitted and to select only a single nominee considering the vacancy is similarly solitary,” the group said.
It stated that not one of the six nominees shortlisted by the JBC — Judges Philip Aguinaldo, Reynaldo Alhambra, Danilo Cruz, Benjamin Pozon, Danilo Sandoval and Salvador Timbang Jr. – was chosen.
These forced the judges to join the petition and become the petitioners to the case as they “suffered direct injury in this case.”
“In the questioned appointments, President Aquino violated Section 9, Article VIII of the 1987 Constitution when he did not appoint anyone from the shortlist submitted by the JBC for the vacancy for the 16th associate justice of the Sandiganbayan; and appointed Undersecretary Musngi and Judge Econg, whose names were from the same shortlist submitted for the position of the 21st associate justice of the Sandiganbayan,” it said.
“To be sure, the acts of respondent set a dangerous precedent which opens the door to abuse and oppression. These are the very evils proscribed by our Constitution, and are a clear act of grave abuse of discretion subject to the Honorable Court’s review,” it stressed.