ISSUE: Whether or not the incumbent President can appoint the next Chief Justice
FACTS: These cases trace their genesis to the controversy that has arisen from the forthcoming compulsory retirement of Chief Justice Puno on May 17, 2010, or seven days after the presidential election. Under Section 4(1), in relation to Section 9, Article VIII, that “vacancy shall be filled within ninety days from the occurrence thereof” from a “list of at least three nominees prepared by the Judicial and Bar Council for every vacancy.” Also considering that Section 15, Article VII (Executive Department) of the Constitution prohibits the President or Acting President from making appointments within two months immediately before the next presidential elections and up to the end of his term, except temporary appointments to executive positions when continued vacancies therein will prejudice public service or endanger public safety. The JBC, in its en banc meeting of January 18, 2010, unanimously agreed to start the process of filling up the position of Chief Justice. Conformably with its existing practice, the JBC “automatically considered” for the position of Chief Justice the five most senior of the Associate Justices of the Court, namely: Associate Justice Antonio T. Carpio; Associate Justice Renato C. Corona; Associate Justice Conchita Carpio Morales; Associate Justice Presbitero J. Velasco, Jr.; and Associate Justice Antonio Eduardo B. Nachura. However, the last two declined their nomination through letters dated January 18, 2010 and January 25, 2010, respectively. The OSG contends that the incumbent President may appoint the next Chief Justice, because the prohibition under Section 15, Article VII of the Constitution does not apply to appointments in the Supreme Court.
RATIO DECIDENDI: Prohibition under section 15, Article VII does not apply to appointments to fill a vacancy in the Supreme Court or to other appointments to the judiciary. The records of the deliberations of the Constitutional Commission reveal that the framers devoted time to meticulously drafting, styling, and arranging the Constitution. Such meticulousness indicates that the organization and arrangement of the provisions of the Constitution were not arbitrarily or whimsically done by the framers, but purposely made to reflect their intention and manifest their vision of what the Constitution should contain. 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. 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 surely written 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.