In Re Valenzuela and Vallarta Digest
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c !" #$ % &' On March 30, 1998, The President signed appointments of Hon. Mateo Valenzuela and Hon. Placido Vallarta as Judges of RTC-Bago City and Cabanatuan City, respectively. These appointments were deliberated, as it seemed to be expressly prohibited by Art 7 Sec 15 of the Constitution: 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."
A meeting was held on March 9, 1998 by the Judicial and Bar Council to discuss the constitutionality of appointments to the Court of Appeals (CA) in light of the forthcoming 1998 Presidential elections. Senior Associate Justice Florenz Regalado, Consultant of the Council and Member of the 1986 Constitutional Commission, was in the position that ǲelection ban had no application to the CA based on the Commissionǯs recordsǳ. This þ þ was then submitted to the President for consideration together with the Councilǯs nominations for 8 vacancies in the CA. The Chief Justice (CJ) received on April 6, 1998, an official communication from the Executive Secretary transmitting the appointments of 8 Associate Justices of CA duly signed on þ$ (day immediately before the commencement of the ban on appointments), which implies that the Presidentǯs Office did not agree with the þ þ
The President, addressed to the JBC, requested on May 4, 1998 the transmission of the ǲlist of final nomineesǳ for the vacancy in view of the 90 days imposed by the Constitution (from Feb 13, date present vacancy occurred). In behalf of the JBC, CJ sent the reply on May 6 that no session has been scheduled after the May elections for the reason that they apparently did not share the same view (þ þ ) proposed by the JBC shown by the uniformly dated þ$ appointments. However, it appeared that the Justice Secretary and the other members of the Council took action without waiting for the CJ reply. This prompted CJ to call for a meeting on May 7. On this day, CJ received a letter from the President in reply of the May 6 letter where the President expressed his view that Article 7 Sec 15 only applied to executive appointments, the whole article being entitled ǲEXECUTIVE DEPTǳ. He posited that appointments in the Judiciary have special and specific provisions, as follows: Article 8 Sec 4 "The Supreme Court shall be composed of a Chief Justice and fourteen Associate Justices. It may sit en banc or in its discretion, in divisions of three, five, or seven Members. Any vacancy shall be filled within ninety days from the occurrence thereof." Article 8 Sec 9 "The Members of the Supreme Court and judges in lower courts shall be appointed by the President from the list of at least three nominees prepared by the Judicial and Bar Council for every vacancy. Such appointments need no confirmation.
On May 12, CJ received from Malacanang, the appointments of the 2 Judges of the RTC mentioned. Considering the pending proceedings and deliberations on this matter, the Court resolved by refraining the appointees from taking their oaths. However, Judge Valenzuela took oath in May 14, 1998 claiming he did so without knowledge on the on-going deliberations. It should be noted that the originals of the appointments for both judges had been sent to and received by the CJ on May 12 and is still in the latterǯs office and had not been transmitted yet. According to Judge Valenzuela, he did so because of the May 7 Malacanang copy of his appointment. In construing Article 7 and 8: when there are no presidential election, Art8 shall apply where vacancies in SC shall be filled within 90 days otherwise prohibition in Art7 must be considered where the President shall not make any appointments. According to Fr. Bernas, the reason for prohibition is in order not to tie the hands of the incoming Pres through midnight appointments. c*+' WON the President can fill vacancies in the judiciary pursuant to Article 8 Sec 4 and 9, during the appointment ban period stated in Article 7 Sec 15. +,-' Article 8 Sec 4 and 9 simply mean that the ǲPresident is required to fill vacancies in the courts within the time frames provided therein unless prohibited by Article7 Sec15. Thus, þ þ . / þ 0 Likewise, the prohibition on appointments comes into effect only once every six years. The Court also pointed out that Article8 Sec4 and 9 should prevail over Article7 Sec15 as they may be considered later expressions of the people when they adopted the Constitution. The Supreme Court, in an en banc decision, declared the appointments signed by the President on March 30, 1998 of Hon. Valenzuela and Hon. Vallarta 1c-. They are ordered to cease and desist from discharging the office of Judge of the Courts to which they were respectively appointed on the said date. They come within the operation of the prohibition on appointments. While the filling of judiciary vacancies is in the public interest, there is no compelling reason to justify such appointment within the 2 months appointment ban. In view of Valenzuelaǯs oath taking, the authenticity of the letter of which was not verified from the Office of the Court Administrator, SC reiterated the standing practice and procedures in appointments to the Judiciary that originals of all appointments are to be sent by the Office of the President to the Office of the Chief Justice. The Clerk of Court of the SC, in the Chief Justiceǯs behalf, will advice the appointee of their appointments as well as the date of commencement of the prerequisite orientation seminar to be conducted by the Philippine Judicial Academy for new judges.