Abad on raps vs Noy: Go ahead, sue us
Delon Porcalla, Edu Punay (The Philippine Star) - May 16, 2016 - 10:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Threats of criminal charges from militant groups no longer bother President Aquino and his officials, Budget Secretary Florencio Abad said yesterday.

“Marami na silang sinampang kaso laban sa amin (They’ve filed many cases against us). What’s one more?” Abad said.

Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate earlier vowed to file corruption charges with the Office of the Ombudsman against Aquino and some of his key officials – including Abad – when they step down on June 30.

Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales is an appointee of Aquino. She took over from Merceditas Gutierrez after the latter resigned.

For his part, Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said Aquino is unfazed by such threats as he and his officials have always followed the 1987 Constitution in the discharge of their duties.

But Zarate said they have enough documentary evidence to prove Aquino and his officials have violated the law, particularly with their utilization of the unconstitutional Disbursement Acceleration Program.

Coloma also brushed aside insinuations the outgoing Chief Executive campaigned vigorously for Roxas due to fears that he might end up like his predecessors Gloria Arroyo and Joseph Estrada if a less-friendly administration takes over.

“President Aquino does not have such fear because he has served with loyalty and integrity. He has pushed for the election of leaders who can continue good governance and the daang matuwid (straight path),” he said in Filipino.

In a speech in Chicago in May 2015, Aquino himself acknowledged the possibility of his being charged in court and eventually incarcerated.

Aquino’s father and namesake was jailed by the late strongman Ferdinand Marcos during martial law in the 1970s while his grandfather, Benigno Sr., was also incarcerated by the Japanese during World War II.

“I’m the only politician in my family’s generation, I might be the next to be jailed,” he joked.

Appointments questioned

Meanwhile, the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) is questioning the appointment of two junior magistrates in the Sandiganbayan last January for alleged violation of the Constitution.

The IBP said President Aquino violated the constitutional rule in handpicking Associate Justices Geraldine Faith Econg and Michael Frederick Musngi from the same shortlist submitted by the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC).

The IBP specifically cited Article VIII Section 9 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 is set to submit today to the Supreme Court a 27-page petition seeking the voiding of the appointment of Econg and Musngi.

The group will also ask the high court to issue a temporary restraining order (TRO) enjoining the two “from exercising and performing their duties and functions.”

It urged the high tribunal to exercise its power to review the appointments so it can trace the supposed grave abuse of discretion on the part of the executive department, a co-equal branch of government.

“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,” read the petition.

“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,” the IBP said.

The IBP described the President’s action as a “culpable violation of the Constitution,” which is a ground for impeachment.

“To be sure, the acts of respondents 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.

Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno, chair of the seven-member JBC, had allowed the questionable appointment and even administered oath of office of three of the six justices last Jan. 25.

The JBC submitted to the Palace in October last year six separate shortlists for each of the six vacancies in the Sandiganbayan based on Republic Act 10660 (An Act Strengthening the Functional and Structural Organization of the Sandiganbayan), which created two new divisions in the anti-graft court.

Last January, the President appointed the six new justices of the anti-graft court: Assistant Solicitor General Karl Miranda, Sereno’s staff Zaldy Trespeses, Palace undersecretary Reynaldo Cruz, Judge Ma. Theresa Mendoza-Arcega, Econg and Musngi, his undersecretary for special concerns.

The STAR then reported that Musngi and Econg belonged to the same shortlist.

In one of the six shortlists submitted by JBC, none of the nominees – Judges Philip Aguinaldo, Reynaldo Alhambra, Danilo Cruz, Benjamin Pozon, Danilo Sandoval and Salvador Timbang Jr. – was chosen.

The nominees in the shortlist ignored by the Palace will join the IBP in filing the petition before the high court, as they “suffered direct injury in this case.” 

 

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