Supreme Court en banc, not 1 justice, must rule on Arroyo petitions
The full court and not just Chief Justice Renato Corona should decide on ex-President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s petitions for temporary restraining orders (TRO) on the Department of Justice and the Bureau of Immigration (BI) from enforcing Justice Secretary Leila de Lima’s order to place her on the watch list.
House Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales II said in a text message to the Philippine Daily Inquirer: “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.”
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.
“They should avoid, as much as possible, being branded as Arroyo appointees by their actions,” he said.
But Arroyo’s wish to go abroad as soon as possible now depends on one of Mr. Aquino’s appointees to the Supreme Court.
Associate Justice Bienvenido Reyes has been assigned to hear Arroyo’s petitions.
A senior court official, who asked not be named for lack of authority to divulge the information, said Arroyo’s petition was delegated to Reyes during a raffle Wednesday.
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 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 9-year stay in Malacañang.
Full court session
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 November 15.
But he said the justices in charge could recommend to 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 [November 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 is in the United States, 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 Chief Justice.
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 was 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 today in time for an awarding ceremony tomorrow, 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.
No special treatment
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.”
If the high court issues a TRO, the government cannot prevent the Arroyos from leaving even if the justice department files an appeal, Marquez said.
Asked what may happen if the Arroyos refuse to return even after the tribunal rules De Lima’s order as constitutional, 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.” With a report from Gil C. Cabacungan Jr.