SC justice appointed by Aquino handles Arroyo plea to travel abroad | Inquirer News

SC justice appointed by Aquino handles Arroyo plea to travel abroad

By: - Reporter / @MRamosINQ
/ 10:12 PM November 09, 2011

MANILA, Philippines—Former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s wish to go abroad as soon as possible now depends on one of President Aquino’s appointees to the Supreme Court.

Associate Justice Bienvenido Reyes has been assigned to hear Arroyo’s petition for certiorari challenging Justice Secretary Leila de Lima’s authority to place her on the watch list of the Bureau of Immigration (BI).

Arroyo, now a Pampanga representative, has also petitioned the high court to issue a temporary restraining order (TRO) on the Department of Justice and the BI in enforcing De Lima’s order.

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A senior court official, who asked not be named for not having been assigned to give the information to media, said Arroyo’s petition was delegated to Reyes during a raffle on Wednesday.

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A similar petition separately filed by Arroyo’s husband, Jose Miguel “Mike” Arroyo, was raffled to another justice, according to the source.

The Supreme Court administrator and spokesperson, Jose Midas Marquez, said on Wednesday, he was “still confirming” if Reyes had indeed been assigned to handle Arroyo’s petition.

Marquez said the raffle committee, composed of Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio and Associate Justices Arturo Brion and Teresita Leonardo-de Castro, had assigned the Arroyo couple’s separate petitions to two justices.

A former justice of the Court of Appeals, Reyes is widely perceived as a close friend of Mr. Aquino’s, being a former director of Best Security Agency, a private security firm founded by the latter.

Since he took office on June 30, 2010, the President has so far named three justices to the high court—Reyes, Ma. Lourdes Sereno and Estela Bernabe.

The other 12 justices were appointed by Arroyo during her nine-year stay in Malacañang.

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Speaking at a press briefing, Marquez said the full court would deliberate on the merits of the Arroyo couple’s petitions at the resumption of its regular session on Nov. 15.

But he said the justices in charge could recommend to Chief Justice Renato Corona the issuance of a TRO before the full court session.

“The two justices in charge … are expected to come up with their preliminary assessment of those two petitions. They can come up with a recommendation to the Chief Justice if there should be a TRO issued before [Nov. 15],” Marquez said.

“If there is no TRO issued before [then], the court en banc can decide whether or not a TRO should be issued,” he said.

Except for Corona, who was in the United States as of Wednesday, all the justices have received their copies of the petitions, Marquez said.

He dismissed as “rumors” talk that Corona had decided to cut a US trip short in order to issue an injunctive order in favor of Arroyo.

According to text messages received by reporters covering the justice beat, Corona was to watch the match of Filipino boxing superstar Manny Pacquiao and Mexican slugger Juan Manuel Marquez in Las Vegas, but decided to return home immediately after learning that his former boss had filed the petition.

But Marquez said: “Those are just rumors directed at the Chief Justice. I don’t think those text messages are aimed at pressuring the Supreme Court because nothing can pressure the court.”

Corona served as Arroyo’s chief of staff and spokesperson during her term. He was accused of being her midnight appointee to the high court.

Asked if it was possible for Corona to grant a TRO on his own, Marquez said all the justices of the tribunal could issue injunctive orders under the Rules of Court.

But he said it has been the “practice” for a chief justice to await the recommendation of the justice in charge of cases already endorsed to the full court.

Asked about the probability of Corona breaking the “practice,” Marquez said: “Well, it’s not been done. We give the justice in charge the courtesy to come up with his or her recommendation. That has always been the practice.

“After the recommendation of the justice in charge, the Chief Justice approves it. If you look at the Rules of Court, any justice of the tribunal can issue a TRO.”

Even before Corona’s departure last week to visit his daughter in San Francisco, he confirmed his return on Thursday, in time for an awarding ceremony on Friday, Marquez said.

He said he had informed Corona of the Arroyos’ separate petitions and of the text messages about the Chief Justice’s supposed plan to grant a TRO.

“Just ignore it,” he quoted Corona as saying in a text message.

Marquez denied that the high court gave the Arroyos preferential treatment when it immediately raffled off the cases.

“The court treated [the petitions] as an urgent matter because there is a prayer for a TRO. So regardless of the personalities involved, if the court receives a petition with a prayer for TRO, that is automatically prioritized,” Marquez said. “If there’s really special treatment, then the court should have issued a decision.”

Should the high court issue a TRO, the government would not prevent the Arroyos from leaving even if the justice department filed an appeal, Marquez said.

Asked what might happen if the Arroyos refused to return in case of a high tribunal ruling in favor of De Lima’s order, he said: “Then it’s up to the executive department to implement the decision of the court.

“That’s how it is. That’s how the check and balance works between and among the three branches of the government.”

Told of the perception that the tribunal was an “Arroyo court,” Marquez said: “I think the court has already manifested its independence in a number of cases. So let’s not dwell on that anymore.”

House Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales II said the full court and not just the Chief Justice should decide on Arroyo’s petition.

“The Supreme Court should decide the matter en banc considering [its] political and legal consequence. This is one time that the court should avoid issuing an interlocutory order such as a [TRO] to be issued by  a sole justice,” Gonzales said in a text message to the Inquirer.

He warned that the criticism against the tribunal as composed of “Arroyo appointees” would only grow louder if one of them intervened in the matter.

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“They should avoid, as much as possible, being branded as Arroyo appointees by their actions,” he said. With a report from Gil C. Cabacungan Jr.

TAGS: Supreme Court, travel abroad

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