Arroyo ignores Aquino threat, appoints Corona
OUTGOING President Gloria Arroyo, brushing off questions about her constitutional powers, on Wednesday named the next chief justice of the Supreme Court, which may decide any corruption cases against her once she steps down.
Mrs. Arroyo appointed Associate Justice Renato Corona, 61, who served as her chief of staff when she was vice president, to succeed Reynato Puno, who retires on May 17.
Benigno Aquino III, who is the leading candidate to replace Mrs. Arroyo, had earlier said he would not recognize her choice of chief justice. The next chief justice could be impeached by the next Congress if it was proven that his appointment had been illegal, he said in Baguio City on March 18.
Aquino repeated his objection to Corona’s appointment Wednesday.
“Is it too much to ask President Arroyo to not add another problem for the next administration?” Aquino said in a statement.
“Her appointment of a chief justice in waiting is at the very least inappropriate. Chief Justice Puno’s term has not ended. There is no vacancy to be filled.”
But the Supreme Court welcomed the President’s decision, saying Puno was expected to make a statement during a ceremony for his retirement today, Thursday, but that he had already thrown his support behind Corona.
“Chief Justice Puno [was] one of those who voted for Justice Corona [from the Judicial and Bar Council’s] shortlist [of candidates to replace him that was] submitted to Malacañang,” Supreme Court spokesman Jose Midas Marquez said.
“This means the retiring chief justice believes in the independence and integrity of the chosen successor.”
The Integrated Bar of the Philippines said Corona’s appointment was legal.
“The majority of the board of governors of the [Integrated Bar] have already issued [a] previous statement declaring that we respect the rule of law… and we respect the outcome of the [appointment],” said Roan Libarios, one of the group’s governors.
Another group disagreed.
“The legitimacy of [Corona’s] appointment as chief justice will forever be in question,” said Vincent Lazatin, co-convenor of Supreme Court Appointments Watch.
“Of the shortlisted candidates “he’s the most senior, so in a sense it follows tradition, but the larger issue is [that] the current president is not the appropriate appointing authority.”
The Constitution bans the president from making appointments within two months of an election, but the Supreme Court in March said the prohibition did not cover the position of chief justice.
Mrs. Arroyo appointed all 15 members of the Supreme Court apart from Puno, who reaches the retirement age of 70 on May 17. The only way to remove a sitting Supreme Court justice is by impeachment.
Aquino said he might ask the Supreme Court to review its ruling or pursue impeachment, without saying against whom.
Corona was one of the youngest magistrates to be appointed to the Supreme Court when he joined it on April 9, 2002. He brought with him depth and a perspective gained from his many years of experience as a law professor, a private law practitioner, and a member of the Cabinet under Presidents Fidel Ramos and Gloria Arroyo.
Corona finished his bachelor of laws degree at the Ateneo Law School in 1974, and then pursued a master of business administration course (without thesis) at the Ateneo Professional Schools.
In 1981 he was accepted to the Master of Laws program at the Harvard Law School, where he focused on foreign investment policies and the regulation of corporate and financial institutions, and was conferred a master’s degree the following year.