Scandal brews over justices’ appointments

LIFE’S INSPIRATIONS: “… Be sure of this: The wicked will not go unpunished, but those who are righteous will go free…” (Proverbs 11:21, the Holy Bible).


SC LOOKS INTO BREWING SCANDAL OVER JUSTICES’ APPOINTMENTS: Was President Aquino’s recent appointment of two Sandiganbayan justices—Michael Frederick Musngi and Maria Geraldine Faith Econg—a violation of the Constitution and must therefore be voided?

Acting on an unprecedented petition filed by five Regional Trial Court (RTC) judges—Philip Aguinaldo, Reynaldo Alhambra, Danilo Cruz, Benjamin Pozon, and Salvador Timbang Jr.—and the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP), the Supreme Court decided to look into this issue, which has the makings of a grave scandal in the appointment of members of the judiciary under the Aquino government.

The RTC judges and the IBP charged that Musngi and Econg should not have been appointed Sandiganbayan justices because their names were not in the list of nominees submitted by the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC). Under the 1987 Constitution, only the nominees whose names appear in the JBC list could be appointed by the President.


PNOY APPOINTEES NOT IN JBC SHORTLIST? Here is what Section 9, Art. VIII, of the Constitution provides: “The Members of the Supreme Court and judges of lower courts shall be appointed by the President from a list of at least three nominees preferred by the Judicial and Bar Council for every vacancy. Such appointments need no confirmation.”

An online media report on the Supreme Court order in the case filed by the RTC judges and by the IBP said however that the names of Musngi and Econg were in “a different shortlist (so that) they should not have been named to the Sandiganbayan.”

The same media report said the complaining RTC judges were the ones “shortlisted for a vacant position in the Sandiganbayan and they claim Aquino violated the Constitution when he appointed… Musngi… and Econg as the… associate justices of the Sandiganbayan…”


SC COMPLAINT VS. GRAFT COURT JUSTICES UNPRECEDENTED: This petition by the RTC judges and by the IBP is the first of its kind in the Philippines, after all appointments to the judiciary were required to be preceded by a system of selection and nomination carried out by the JBC under the 1987 Constitution. Never before was any appointment of any judge or justice contested on the ground that the appointee was not among those nominated by the JBC.

There have been reports during earlier times about “snow-paking”, or erasing the names of appointees by white liquid commercially known as “snowpake” and replacing them with other names at the Office of the President itself, but nobody dared to complain publicly, much less with a formal petition with the high court.

Lawyers and judges and justices should therefore welcome what Aguinaldo and company and the IBP did here, not only to clear the truth about the appointments of Musngi and Econg, but more to punish any wrongdoing or Constitutional infringement by anyone and thereby prevent a repetition in the future, particularly by officials who think that with their popularity, they can do away even with murder!


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