Episode 45: On the Matter of the Next Chief Justice: A Constitutional Perspective

Episode #045
(14:02 min 12.8MB)

Chief Justice Reynato Puno reaches mandatory retirement on 17 May 2010. Two conflicting concerns arise because of this: a vacancy in a critical position in the Supreme Court vs. the constitutional ban on midnight appointments. Fr. Joaquin Bernas, S.J., a member of the 1986 Constitutional Commission, explores these constitutional issues. On one hand, the constitution bans midnight appointments. Thus, the president cannot make any appointments after March 10. The only exception would be temporary appointments to the executive department in cases where this is absolutely necessary.

However, the constitution also states that a new chief justice has to be appointed within 90 days. Since the new president will only be inaugurated on June 30, there seems to be some contradiction. Fr. Bernas, S.J., explains that when two provisions seem at variance with each other, the first thing to do is to look for ways to make them both work. That is feasible in this case. After inauguration, the new president would still have 45 days to appoint a new chief justice.

He also explains that the Supreme Court has procedures in case of the absence of a chief justice for a short period of time. Should this happen, the next most senior justice takes over the administrative duties of the chief justice. Substantive concerns are the responsibility of all the justices. A vacancy can therefore be managed satisfactorily.

The music is provided by Dieter Bachmann and Dan-O.

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