Thursday, February 23, 2017

De Castro vs. Judicial and Bar Council (JBC), 615 SCRA 666, March 17, 2010

Judicial Review; Locus Standi; Requisites; Words and Phrases; In public or constitutional litigations, the Court is often burdened with the determination of the locus standi of the petitioners due to the ever-present need to regulate the invocation of the intervention of the Court to correct any official action or policy in order to avoid obstructing the efficient functioning of public officials and offices involved in public service; Black defines locus standi as “a right of appearance in a court of justice on a given question.”—Black defines locus standi as “a right of appearance in a court of justice on a given question.” In public or constitutional litigations, the Court is often burdened with the determination of the locus standi of the petitioners due to the ever-present need to regulate the invocation of the intervention of the Court to correct any official action or policy in order to avoid obstructing the efficient functioning of public officials and offices involved in public service. It is required, therefore, that the petitioner must have a personal stake in the outcome of the controversy, for, as indicated in Agan, Jr. v.Philippine International Air Terminals Co., Inc., 402 SCRA 612 (2003): The question on legal standing is whether such parties have “alleged such a personal stake in the outcome of the controversy as to assure that concrete adverseness which sharpens the presentation of issues upon which the court so largely depends for illumination of difficult constitutional questions.” Accordingly, it has been held that the interest of a person assailing the constitutionality of a statute must be direct and personal. He must be able to show, not only that the law or any government act is invalid, but also that he sustained or is in imminent danger of sustaining some direct injury as a result of its enforcement, and not merely that he suffers thereby in some indefinite way. It must appear that the person complaining has been or is about to be denied some right or privilege to which he is lawfully entitled or that he is about to be subjected to some burdens or penalties by reason of the statute or act complained of.

Same; Same; Taxpayer Suits; Quite often, the petitioner in a public action sues as a citizen or taxpayer to gain locus standi, which is not surprising, for even if the issue may appear to concern only the public in general, such capacities nonetheless equip the petitioner with adequate interest to sue.—The assertion of a public right as a predicate for challenging a supposedly illegal or unconstitutional executive or legislative action rests on the theory that the petitioner represents the public in general. Although such petitioner may not be as adversely affected by the action complained against as are others, it is enough that he sufficiently demonstrates in his petition that he is entitled to protection or relief from the Court in the vindication of a public right. Quite often, as here, the petitioner in a public action sues as a citizen ortaxpayer to gain locus standi. That is not surprising, for even if the issue may appear to concern only the public in general, such capacities nonetheless equip the petitioner with adequate interest to sue. In David v. Macapagal-Arroyo, 489 SCRA 160 (2006) the Court aptly explains why: Case law in most jurisdictions now allows both “citizen” and “taxpayer” standing in public actions. The distinction was first laid down in Beauchamp v. Silk, where it was held that the plaintiff in a taxpayer’s suit is in a different category from the plaintiff in a citizen’s suit. In the former, the plaintiff is affected by the expenditure of public funds, while in the latter, he is but the mere instrument of the public concern. As held by the New York Supreme Court in People ex rel Case v. Collins: “In matter of mere public right, however…the people are the real parties…It is at least the right, if not the duty, of every citizen to interfere and see that a public offence be properly pursued and punished, and that a public grievance be remedied.” With respect to taxpayer’s suits, Terr v. Jordan held that “the right of a citizen and a taxpayer to maintain an action in courts to restrain the unlawful use of public funds to his injury cannot be denied.

Same; Same; Same; The Court retains the broad discretion to waive the requirement of legal standing in favor of any petitioner when the matter involved has transcendental importance, or otherwise requires a liberalization of the requirement.—The Court rules that the petitioners have each demonstrated adequate interest in the outcome of the controversy as to vest them with the requisite locus standi. The issues before us are of transcendental importance to the people as a whole, and to the petitioners in particular. Indeed, the issues affect everyone (including the petitioners), regardless of one’s personal interest in life, because they concern that great doubt about the authority of the incumbent President to appoint not only the successor of the retiring incumbent Chief Justice, but also others who may serve in the Judiciary, which already suffers from a far too great number of vacancies in the ranks of trial judges throughout the country. In any event, the Court retains the broad discretion to waive the requirement of legal standing in favor of any petitioner when the matter involved has transcendental importance, or otherwise requires a liberalization of the requirement.

Same; Actual Case or Controversy; Although the position is not yet vacant, the fact that the Judicial and Bar Council began the process of nomination pursuant to its rules and practices, although it has yet to decide whether to submit the list of nominees to the incumbent outgoing President or to the next President, makes the situation ripe for judicial determination, because the next steps are the public interview of the candidates, the preparation of the short list of candidates, and the “interview of constitutional experts, as may be needed.”—We hold that the petitions set forth an actual case or controversy that is ripe for judicial determination. The reality is that the JBC already commenced the proceedings for the selection of the nominees to be included in a short list to be submitted to the President for consideration of which of them will succeed Chief Justice Puno as the next Chief Justice. Although the position is not yet vacant, the fact that the JBC began the process of nomination pursuant to its rules and practices, although it has yet to decide whether to submit the list of nominees to the incumbent outgoing President or to the next President, makes the situation ripe for judicial determination, because the next steps are the public interview of the candidates, the preparation of the short list of candidates, and the “interview of constitutional experts, as may be needed.” A part of the question to be reviewed by the Court is whether the JBC properly initiated the process, there being an insistence from some of the oppositors-intervenors that the JBC could only do so once the vacancy has occurred (that is, after May 17, 2010). Another part is, of course, whether the JBC may resume its process until the short list is prepared, in view of the provision of Section 4(1), Article VIII, which unqualifiedly requires the President to appoint one from the short list to fill the vacancy in the Supreme Court (be it the Chief Justice or an Associate Justice) within 90 days from the occurrence of the vacancy.

Same; Same; The Court need not await the occurrence of the vacancy in the position of the Chief Justice in order for the principal issue to ripe for judicial determination by the Court.—We need not await the occurrence of the vacancy by May 17, 2010 in order for the principal issue to ripe for judicial determination by the Court. It is enough that one alleges conduct arguably affected with a constitutional interest, but seemingly proscribed by the Constitution. A reasonable certainty of the occurrence of the perceived threat to a constitutional interest is sufficient to afford a basis for bringing a challenge, provided the Court has sufficient facts before it to enable it to intelligently adjudicate the issues. Herein, the facts are not in doubt, for only legal issues remain.

Presidency; Appointments; Midnight Appointment Ban; The prohibition against presidential appointments under Section 15, Article VII does not extend to appointments in the Judiciary.—In the consolidated petitions, the petitioners, with the exception of Soriano, Tolentino and Inting, submit that the incumbent President can appoint the successor of Chief Justice Puno upon his retirement on May 17, 2010, on the ground that the prohibition against presidential appointments under Section 15, Article VII does not extend to appointments in the Judiciary. The Court agrees with the submission.

Same; Same; Statutory Construction; Had the framers intended to extend the prohibition contained in Section 15, Article VII to the appointment of Members of the Supreme Court, they could have explicitly done so—they could not have ignored the meticulous ordering of the provisions.—As can be seen, Article VII is devoted to the Executive Department, and, among others, it lists the powers vested by the Constitution in the President. The presidential power of appointment is dealt with in Sections 14, 15 and 16 of the Article. Article VIII is dedicated to the Judicial Department and defines the duties and qualifications of Members of the Supreme Court, among others. Section 4(1) and Section 9 of this Article are the provisions specifically providing for the appointment of Supreme Court Justices. In particular, Section 9 states that the appointment of Supreme Court Justices can only be made by the President upon the submission of a list of at least three nominees by the JBC; Section 4(1) of the Article mandates the President to fill the vacancy within 90 days from the occurrence of the vacancy. Had the framers intended to extend the prohibition contained in Section 15, Article VII to the appointment of Members of the Supreme Court, they could have explicitly done so. They could not have ignored the meticulous ordering of the provisions. They would have easily and surelywritten the prohibition made explicit in Section 15, Article VII as being equally applicable to the appointment of Members of the Supreme Court in Article VIII itself, most likely in Section 4 (1), Article VIII. That such specification was not done only reveals that the prohibition against the President or Acting President making appointments within two months before the next presidential elections and up to the end of the President’s or Acting President’s term does not refer to the Members of the Supreme Court.

Same; Same; Same; Judgments; The reference to the records of the Constitutional Commission did not advance or support the result in In Re Appointments Dated March 30, 1998 of Hon. Mateo A. Valenzuela and Hon. Placido B. Vallarta as Judges of the Regional
Trial Court of Branch 62, Bago City and of Branch 24, Cabanatuan City, respectively (Valenzuela), 298 SCRA 408 (1998).—The reference to the records of the Constitutional Commission did not advance or support the result in Valenzuela. Far to the contrary, the records disclosed the express intent of the framers to enshrine in the Constitution, upon the initiative of Commissioner Eulogio Lerum, “a command [to the President] to fill up any vacancy therein within 90 days from its occurrence,” which evenValenzuela conceded. The exchanges during deliberations of the Constitutional Commission on October 8, 1986 further show that the filling of a vacancy in the Supreme Court within the 90-day period was a true mandate for the President.

Same; Same; Same; Same; The usage in Section 4(1), Article VIII of the Constitution of the word shall—an imperative, operating to impose a duty that may be enforced—should not be disregarded;  Section 4(1) imposes on the President the imperative duty to make an appointment of a Member of the Supreme Court within 90 days from the occurrence of the vacancy—the failure by the President to do so will be a clear disobedience to the Constitution; The 90-day limitation fixed in Section 4(1), Article VIII for the President to fill the vacancy in the Supreme Court was undoubtedly a special provision to establish a definite mandate for the President as the appointing power.—Moreover, the usage in Section 4(1), Article VIII of the word shall—an imperative, operating to impose a duty that may be enforced—should not be disregarded. Thereby, Sections 4(1) imposes on the President theimperative duty to make an appointment of a Member of the Supreme Court within 90 days from the occurrence of the vacancy. The failure by the President to do so will be a clear disobedience to the Constitution. The 90-day limitation fixed in Section 4(1), Article VIII for the President to fill the vacancy in the Supreme Court was undoubtedly a special provision to establish a definite mandate for the President as the appointing power, and cannot be defeated by mere judicial interpretation inValenzuela to the effect that Section 15, Article VII prevailed because it was “couched in stronger negative language.” Such interpretation even turned out to be conjectural, in light of the records of the Constitutional Commission’s deliberations on Section 4 (1), Article VIII.

Same; Same; Same; Same; Valenzuela arbitrarily ignored the express intent of the Constitutional Commission to have Section 4 (1), Article VIII stand independently of any other provision, least of all one found in Article VII—a misinterpretation like Valenzuela should not be allowed to last after its false premises have been exposed; Valenzuela now deserves to be quickly sent to the dustbin of the unworthy and forgettable.—In this connection, PHILCONSA’s urging of a revisit and a review of Valenzuela is timely and appropriate. Valenzuela arbitrarily ignored the express intent of the Constitutional Commission to have Section 4 (1), Article VIII stand independently of any other provision, least of all one found in Article VII. It further ignored that the two provisions had no irreconcilable conflict, regardless of Section 15, Article VII being couched in the negative. As judges, we are not to unduly interpret, and should not accept an interpretation that defeats the intent of the framers. Consequently, prohibiting the incumbent President from appointing a Chief Justice on the premise that Section 15, Article VII extends to appointments in the Judiciary cannot be sustained. A misinterpretation likeValenzuela should not be allowed to last after its false premises have been exposed. It will not do to merely distinguish Valenzuelafrom these cases, for the result to be reached herein is entirely incompatible with what Valenzuela decreed. Consequently, Valenzuela now deserves to be quickly sent to the dustbin of the unworthy and forgettable. We reverse Valenzuela.

Same; Same; Same; Judicial and Bar Council; Given the background and rationale for the prohibition in Section 15, Article VII, the Court has no doubt that the Constitutional Commission confined the prohibition to appointments made in the Executive Department; If midnight appointments in the mold of Aytona v. Castillo, 4 SCRA 1 (1962), were made in haste and with irregularities, or made by an outgoing Chief Executive in the last days of his administration out of a desire to subvert the policies of the incoming President or for partisanship, the appointments to the Judiciary made after the establishment of the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) would not be suffering from such defects because of the JBC’s prior processing of candidates.—Given the background and rationale for the prohibition in Section 15, Article VII, we have no doubt that the Constitutional Commission confined the prohibition to appointments made in the Executive Department. The framers did not need to extend the prohibition to appointments in the Judiciary, because their establishment of the JBC and their subjecting the nomination and screening of candidates for judicial positions to the unhurried and deliberateprior process of the JBC ensured that there would no longer be mid- night appointments to the Judiciary. If midnight appointments in the mold of Aytona were made in haste and with irregularities, or made by an outgoing Chief Executive in the last days of his administration out of a desire to subvert the policies of the incoming President or for partisanship, the appointments to the Judiciary made after the establishment of the JBC would not be suffering from such defects because of the JBC’s prior processing of candidates. Indeed, it is axiomatic in statutory construction that the ascertainment of the purpose of the enactment is a step in the process of ascertaining the intent or meaning of the enactment, because the reason for the enactment must necessarily shed considerable light on “the law of the statute,” i.e., the intent; hence, the enactment should be construed with reference to its intended scope and purpose, and the court should seek to carry out this purpose rather than to defeat it.

Same; Same; Same; Same; The intervention of the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) eliminates the danger that appointments to the Judiciary can be made for the purpose of buying votes in a coming presidential election, or of satisfying partisan considerations.—The intervention of the JBC eliminates the danger that appointments to the Judiciary can be made for the purpose of buying votes in a coming presidential election, or of satisfying partisan considerations. The experience from the time of the establishment of the JBC shows that even candidates for judicial positions at any level backed by people influential with the President could not always be assured of being recommended for the consideration of the President, because they first had to undergo the vetting of the JBC and pass muster there. Indeed, the creation of the JBC was precisely intended to de-politicize the Judiciary by doing away with the intervention of the Commission on Appointments. This insulating process was absent from theAytona midnight appointment.

Same; Same; Same; The fault of Valenzuela was that it accorded no weight and due consideration to the confirmation of Justice Regalado—Valenzuela was weak, because it relied on interpretation to determine the intent of the framers rather than on the deliberations of the Constitutional Commission.—As earlier stated, the non-applicability of Section 15, Article VII to appointments in the Judiciary was confirmed by then Senior Associate Justice Regalado to the JBC itself when it met on March 9, 1998 to discuss the question raised by some sectors about the “constitutionality of xxx appointments” to the Court of Appeals in light of the forthcoming presidential elections. He assured that “on the basis of the (Constitutional) Commission’s records, the election ban had no application to appointments to the Court of Appeals.” This confirmation wasaccepted by the JBC, which then submitted to the President for consideration the nominations for the eight vacancies in the Court of Appeals. The fault of Valenzuela was that it accorded no weight and due consideration to the confirmation of Justice Regalado.Valenzuela was weak, because it relied on interpretation to determine the intent of the framers rather than on the deliberations of the Constitutional Commission. Much of the unfounded doubt about the President’s power to appoint during the period of prohibition in Section 15, Article VII could have been dispelled since its promulgation on November 9, 1998, hadValenzuela properly acknowledged and relied on the confirmation of a distinguished member of the Constitutional Commission like Justice Regalado.

Same; Same; Same; To hold like the Court did in Valenzuela that Section 15 extends to appointments to the Judiciary further undermines the intent of the Constitution of ensuring the independence of the Judicial Department from the Executive and Legislative Departments.—To hold like the Court did inValenzuela that Section 15 extends to appointments to the Judiciary further undermines the intent of the Constitution of ensuring the independence of the Judicial Department from the Executive and Legislative Departments. Such a holding will tie the Judiciary and the Supreme Court to the fortunes or misfortunes of political leaders vying for the Presidency in a presidential election. Consequently, the wisdom of having the new President, instead of the current incumbent President, appoint the next Chief Justice is itself suspect, and cannot ensure judicial independence, because the appointee can also become beholden to the appointing authority. In contrast, the appointment by the incumbent President does not run the same risk of compromising judicial independence, precisely because her term will end by June 30, 2010.

Same; Same; Same; In an extreme case, the Court can even raise a doubt on whether a Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) list is necessary at all for the President—any President—to appoint a Chief Justice if the appointee is to come from the ranks of the sitting justices of the Supreme Court.—As a matter of fact, in an extreme case, we can even raise a doubt on whether a JBC list is necessary at all for the President—any President—to appoint a Chief Justice if the appointee is to come from the ranks of the sitting justices of the Supreme Court. Sec. 9, Article VIII says: xxx. The Members of the Supreme Court xxx shall be appointed by the President from a list of at least three nominees prepared by the Judicial and Bar Council for any vacancy. Such appointments need no confirmation. xxx The provision clearly refers to an appointee coming into the Supreme Court from the outside, that is, a non-member of the Court aspiring to become one. It speaks of candidates for the Supreme Court, not of those who are already members or sitting justices of the Court, all of whom have previously been vetted by the JBC. Can the President, therefore, appoint any of the incumbent Justices of the Court as Chief Justice? The question is not squarely before us at the moment, but it should lend itself to a deeper analysis if and when circumstances permit. It should be a good issue for the proposed Constitutional Convention to consider in the light of Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile’s statement that the President can appoint the Chief Justice from among the sitting justices of the Court even without a JBC list.

Same; Same; Same; Supreme Court; Judiciary Act of 1948; Legal Research; The express reference in Sections 4(1) and 9 of Article VIII of the Constitution to a Chief Justice abhors the idea that the framers contemplated an Acting Chief Justice to head the membership of the Supreme Court—otherwise, they would have simply written so in the Constitution; The framers intended the position of Chief Justice to be permanent, not one to be occupied in an acting or temporary capacity; It ought to be remembered that Section 12 of the Judiciary Act of 1948 was enacted because the Chief Justice appointed under the 1935 Constitution was subject to the confirmation of the Commission on Appointments, and the confirmation process might take longer than expected.—A review of Sections 4(1) and 9 of Article VIII shows that the Supreme Court is composed of a Chief Justice and 14 Associate Justices, who all shall be appointed by the President from a list of at least three nominees prepared by the JBC for every vacancy, which appointments require no confirmation by the Commission on Appointments. With reference to the Chief Justice, he or she is appointed by the President as Chief Justice, and the appointment is never in an acting capacity. The express reference to a Chief Justice abhors the idea that the framers contemplated an ActingChief Justice to head the membership of the Supreme Court. Otherwise, they would have simply written so in the Constitution. Consequently, to rely on Section 12 of the Judiciary Act of 1948 in order to forestall the imperative need to appoint the next Chief Justice soonest is to defy the plain intent of the Constitution. For sure, the framers intended the position of Chief Justice to be permanent, not one to be occupied in an acting or temporary capacity. In relation to the scheme of things under the present Constitution, Section 12 of the Judiciary Act of 1948 only responds to a rare situation in which the new Chief Justice is not yet appointed, or in which the incumbent Chief Justice is unable to perform the duties and powers of the office. It ought to be remembered, however, that it was enacted because the Chief Justice appointed under the 1935 Constitution was subject to the confirmation of the Commission on Appointments, and the confirmation process might take longer than expected.

Same; Same; Same; Same; The lack of any appointed occupant of the office of Chief Justice harms the independence of the Judiciary, because the Chief Justice is the head of the entire Judiciary.—The appointment of the next Chief Justice by the incumbent President is preferable to having the Associate Justice who is first in precedence take over. Under the Constitution, the heads of the Legislative and Executive Departments are popularly elected, and whoever are elected and proclaimed at once become the leaders of their respective Departments. However, the lack of any appointed occupant of the office of Chief Justice harms the independence of the Judiciary, because the Chief Justice is the head of the entire Judiciary. The Chief Justice performs functions absolutely significant to the life of the nation. With the entire Supreme Court being the Presidential Electoral Tribunal, the Chief Justice is the Chairman of the Tribunal. There being no obstacle to the appointment of the next Chief Justice, aside from its being mandatory for the incumbent President to make within the 90-day period from May 17, 2010, there is no justification to insist that the successor of Chief Justice Puno be appointed by the next President.

Mandamus; Requisites.—Mandamus shall issue when any tribunal, corporation, board, officer or person unlawfully neglects the performance of an act that the law specifically enjoins as a duty resulting from an office, trust, or station. It is proper when the act against which it is directed is one addressed to the discretion of the tribunal or officer. Mandamus is not available to direct the exercise of a judgment or discretion in a particular way. For mandamus to lie, the following requisites must be complied with: (a) the plaintiff has a clear legal right to the act demanded; (b) it must be the duty of the defendant to perform the act, because it is mandated by law; (c) the defendant unlawfully neglects the performance of the duty enjoined by law; (d) the act to be performed is ministerial, not discretionary; and (e) there is no appeal or any other plain, speedy and adequate remedy in the ordinary course of law.

Same; Presidency; Appointments; Judicial and Bar Council; The Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) has no discretion to submit the list of nominees to fill a vacancy in the Supreme Court to the President after the vacancy occurs, because that shortens the 90-day period allowed by the Constitution for the President to make the appointment.—Section 4(1) and Section 9, Article VIII, mandate the President to fill the vacancy in the Supreme Court within 90 days from the occurrence of the vacancy, and within 90 days from the submission of the list, in the case of the lower courts. The 90-day period is directed at the President, not at the JBC. Thus, the JBC should start the process of selecting the candidates to fill the vacancy in the Supreme Court before the occurrence of the vacancy. Under the Constitution, it is mandatory for the JBC to submit to the President the list of nominees to fill a vacancy in the Supreme Court in order to enable the President to appoint one of them within the 90-day period from the occurrence of the vacancy. The JBC has no discretion to submit the list to the President after the vacancy occurs, because that shortens the 90-day period allowed by the Constitution for the President to make the appointment. For the JBC to do so will be unconscionable on its part, considering that it will therebyeffectively and illegally deprive the President of the ample time granted under the Constitution to reflect on the qualifications of the nominees named in the list of the JBC before making the appointment.

Same; Same; Same; Same; The duty of the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) to submit a list of nominees before the start of the President’s mandatory 90-day period to appoint is ministerial, but its selection of the candidates whose names will be in the list to be submitted to the President lies within the discretion of the JBC.—The duty of the JBC to submit a list of nominees before the start of the President’s mandatory 90-day period to appoint is ministerial, but its selection of the candidates whose names will be in the list to be submitted to the President lies within the discretion of the JBC. The object of the petitions for mandamusherein should only refer to the duty to submit to the President the list of nominees for every vacancy in the Judiciary, because in order to constitute unlawful neglect of duty, there must be an unjustified delay in performing that duty. For mandamus to lie against the JBC, therefore, there should be an unexplained delay on its part in recommending nominees to the Judiciary, that is, in submitting the list to the President.

Words and Phrases; “Ministerial Act” and “Discretionary Act,” Distinguished.—The distinction between a ministerial act and a discretionary one has been delineated in the following manner: The distinction between a ministerial and discretionary act is well delineated. A purely ministerial act or duty is one which an officer or tribunal performs in a given state of facts, in a prescribed manner, in obedience to the mandate of a legal authority, without regard to or the exercise of his own judgment upon the propriety or impropriety of the act done. If the law imposes a duty upon a public officer and gives him the right to decide how or when the duty shall be performed, such duty is discretionary and not ministerial. The duty is ministerial only when the discharge of the same requires neither the exercise of official discretion or judgment.

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