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