POSTSCRIPT / March 18, 2010 / Thursday

By FEDERICO D. PASCUAL JR.

Philippine STAR Columnist

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It’s not SC job to rule on hypothetical cases

GMA UPHELD: Although the Supreme Court has ruled with a 9-1-3 vote that President Arroyo may validly appoint the next Chief Justice, it seems that politics will not allow the question to be settled with finality until she leaves Malacanang on June 30.

At this perigee of her presidential orbit, whatever Gloria Macapagal Arroyo does or does not do is totally wrong to her unforgiving critics. In this CJ appointment issue, she has been faulted for something she had not done yet.

The sad thing is that even the Court has been prejudged as biased on many issues, just because 14 of the 15 justices are Arroyo appointees. (Only Chief Justice Reynato Puno is not.) This is illogical and unkind.

Alas, the same anti-Arroyo smear will also weigh on her prospective CJ appointee — who could not be Justice Antonio Carpio, the most senior, because he had pre-disqualified himself by stating he would accept an appointment only from the incoming president.

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WRONG BASIS: The Court ruled yesterday that vacancies in the Supreme Court, including that of the Chief Justice, are not covered by Section 15, Article VII, which says: “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.”

This appointment ban under Article VII applies only to Executive vacancies and not to those in the Judiciary, which are covered by Article VIII, according to the Court.

Read Article VIII. It does not mention any appointment ban. In fact, under Section 9, it gives the President “the authority to appoint, within 90 days, any member of the Judiciary based on the list which will be submitted by the Judicial and Bar Council.”

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PREMATURE: While accepting the Court’s ruling, Postscript concurs with Justices Antonio Eduardo Nachura and Presbitero Velasco who voted to dismiss all petitions filed for and against the appointing power of the President, for being “premature.”

President Arroyo had not acted or officially started the appointment process for the replacement of CJ Puno when he retires on May 17. There was nothing actionable to raise before the Supreme Court.

The 15 wise men of the High Court are not a bunch of mind-readers who anticipate possible actions of politicians and jump into conclusions.

Rendering advance legal opinions or weaving legal theories on hypothetical situations is not the job of the Supreme Court.

That was for the same reason (that there was no cause of action) why the Court had thrown out petitions to stop former President Erap Estrada from running for president even before he filed a certificate of candidacy.

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SKIP PARTY-LIST: Going over the official list of 187 Party-list candidates and their acronyms that will appear on the ballot on May 10, the average voter may not have enough information as educated basis for making a choice.

For this reason of ambiguity, and the fact that the Party-list system has been bastardized to the point of absurdity and has become an insult to the electorate, my personal vote on Election Day is to SKIP THE PARTY-LIST portion in the ballot.

If only to force action by Congress and the Commission on Election, I urge voters to do the same – skip the Party-lists. Let us minimize the chances of undesirable Party-lists and their nominees of gaining House seats.

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WHY VELARDE?: Last Sunday, for instance, as the 12-round Pacquiao-Clottey fight dragged on for two hours on TV, an ad intruded on screen – that of the “Buhay” (Life) Party-list with the photo of preacher Mike Velarde as its presumed nominee or prime mover.

Why would we allow Velarde, who rakes in millions of unreceipted contributions from the throng that flocks to his rallies, to sneak into Congress using a Party-list masquerading as a marginalized sector?

President Arroyo and other top officials beg Velarde for his endorsement. With his political clout and newfound-wealth, he has resurrected his floundering real estate business and even got a giant government loan for a mansion for the rich.

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ET TU, MIKEY?: Another example is Rep. Mikey Arroyo of the second district of Pampanga. After giving way to his mother the President who is running for his seat, he now wants to sneak in as nominee of an allegedly marginalized Party-list.

Is the President’s son marginalized and disadvantaged when he cannot even count (properly account) the millions in cash and real assets he has stashed away in various places?

Do we just watch helplessly by while people in positions of power and influence interpret the laws and everything else in their favor?

Surely there are many more qualified Filipinos who deserve to represent truly marginalized sectors.

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PAGCOR MILLIONS: If you want another example, look at chairman Efraim Genuino of the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. who reportedly wants to enter Congress using a Party-list called BIDA (Batang Iwas). But with this mention, he might decide to drop the plans.

Genuino used tons of Pagcor funds in March 2009 to stage a BIDA rally on Roxas Blvd. where he targeted one million warm bodies in an ambitious display of “hakot” power. He invited President Arroyo but she wisely stayed away.

In Genuino’s long-running TV ad, part of his political exposure, it was claimed that some 800,000 marchers attended. Guinness Book of Records denied this in its official website by reporting that only 332,963 participated.

Btw, what ever happened to the millions also in Pagcor funds that were poured into an earlier ill-starred Party-list attempt – Bigkis Pinoy? And what about the disastrous campaign to get Genuino family members elected in Makati in 2007?

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(First published in the Philippine STAR of March 18, 2010)

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