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De Castro v.

Judicial and Bar Council (2010)

Summary Cases:

● Arturo M. De Castro vs. Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) 615 SCRA 666

Subject:

Locus Standi, Taxpayer’s Suit, Citizen’s Suit, Justiciable Issue, Midnight Appointment Ban, Statutory
Construction, Judicial and Bar Council, “Acting” Chief Justice under the Judiciary Act of 1948, Chief
Justice, Mandamus, Ministerial Act, Discretionary Act

Facts:

This case involves several petitions filed either for the prohibition of or mandamus for the Judicial and
Bar Council (JBC) to submit to the President its list of nominees for the position of Chief Justice. The
case also raised the issue on whether the appointment of the next Chief Justice by the incumbent
President GMA is a midnight appointment prohibited by the Constitution.

The controversy arose from the forthcoming compulsory retirement of Chief Justice Puno on May 17,
2010 or seven days after the presidential election. On 22 December 2009, Congressman Matias
Defensor, an ex-officio member of the JBC, addressed a letter to the JBC and requested that the
process for nominations to the office of the Chief Justice be commenced immediately. Consequently, the
JBC passed a resolution unanimously agreeing to start the process of filling up the position of Chief
Justice. The process has already begun, however, the JBC is not yet decided on when to submit to the
President its list of nominees due to controversy in this case being unresolved.

The parties frequently cited the case of In Re Appointments of Valenzuela and Vallarta (Valenzuela) as a
precedent, which held that the prohibition of the President to make “midnight appointments” under
Section 15, Article VII applies to appointments in the judiciary.

Held:

Locus Standi

1. Locus standi is defined as “a right of appearance in a court of justice on a given question.”

2. It has been held that the interest of a person assailing the constitutionality of a statute must be direct
and personal. He must be able to show, not only that the law or any government act is invalid, but also
that he sustained or is in imminent danger of sustaining some direct injury as a result of its enforcement,
and not merely that he suffers thereby in some definite way.

3. It must appear that the person complaining has been or is about to be denied some right or privilege
to which he is lawfully entitled or that he is about to be subjected to some burdens or penalties by reason
of the statute or the act complained of.

4. Legal standing is a peculiar concept in constitutional law because in some cases, suits are not brought
by parties who have been personally injured by the operation of law or any other government act but by
concerned citizens, taxpayers or voters who actually sue in the public interest.

Taxpayer’s Suit vs. Citizen’s Suit

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Article VII is devoted to the Executive Department. provided the Court has sufficient facts before it to enable to intelligently adjudicate the issues. Although the position is not yet vacant. Article VIII of the word “shall” constitutes an imperative duty on the President to make an appointment of a Member of the Supreme Court within 90 days from the occurrence of the vacancy. In Beauchamp v. Terr v. | Page 2 of 4 . while in a citizen’s suit. although it has yet to decide whether to submit the list of nominees to the incumbent outgoing President or to the next President. A reasonable certainty of the occurrence of the perceived threat to a constitutional interest is sufficient to afford a basis for bringing a challenge. Article VII being couched in the negative. Had the framers intended to extend the prohibition contained in Section 15. The Court retains the broad discretion to waive the requirement of legal standing in favor of any petitioner when the matter involved has transcendental importance. The two provisions had no irreconcilable conflict. 9. Section 4(1) and Section 9 specifically provide for the appointment of the Supreme Court Justices. Silk. least of all one found in Article VII. Specifically. the fact that the JBC began the process of nomination pursuant to its rules and practices. or otherwise requires a liberalization of the requirement. It is enough that one alleges conduct arguably affected with a constitutional interest. 15 and 16 of the Article. The usage in Section 4(1). Jordan held that “the right of a citizen and a taxpayer to maintain an action in courts to restrain the unlawful use of public funds to his injury cannot be denied. Justiciable Issue 8. but seemingly proscribed by the Constitution.5. The prohibition against presidential appointments under Section 15. Article VIII stand independently of any other provision. the presidential power of appointment is dealt with in Sections 14. the plaintiff is affected by the expenditure of public funds. There is no need to wait for the occurrence of the vacancy in order for the principal issue to be ripe for judicial determination by the Court. it was held that “in a taxpayer’s suit.” Transcendental Importance 7. 13. Midnight Appointment Ban 11. Statutory Construction 14. makes the situation ripe for judicial determination. Article VII does not extend to appointments in the Judiciary. They could not have ignored the meticulous ordering of the provisions. they could have explicitly done so. 10. the plaintiff is but a mere instrument of the public concern. regardless of Section 15. 15.” 6. On the other hand. Article VIII is dedicated to the Judicial Department. It is the intent of the Constitutional Commission to have Section 4(1). Article VII to the appointment of Members of the Supreme Court. 12.

16. the appointments to the Judiciary made after the establishment of the JBC would not be suffering from such defects because of the JBC’s prior processing of candidates. 18. Appointment to the Supreme Court 26. because it relied on interpretation to determine the intent of the framers rather than on the deliberations of the Constitutional Commission. he or she is appointed by the President as Chief Justice. which appointments require no confirmation by the Commission on Appointments. 28. The framers intended the position of Chief Justice to be permanent. Judicial and Bar Council 19. 22. 25. The Supreme Court is composed of a Chief Justice and 14 Associate Justices. Article VIII stand independently of any other provision. from being made by an outgoing Chief Executive. Valenzuela arbitrarily ignored the express intent of the Constitutional Commission to have Section 4(1). because that shortens the 90-day period allowed by the Constitution for the President to make the appointment. and the appointment is never in an acting capacity. least of all one found in Article VII. The intervention of the JBC eliminates the danger that appointments to the Judiciary can be made for the purpose of buying votes in a coming presidential election. 27. who all shall be appointed by the President from a list of at least three nominees prepared by the JBC for every vacancy. With reference to the Chief Justice. Rationale for the Prohibition 17. Valenzuela was weak. 21. One of the reasons underlying the adoption of Section 15. Valenzuela Ruling Reversed 23. 24. and the court should seek to carry out this purpose rather than to defeat it. The enactment should be construed with reference to its intended scope and purpose. The creation of the JBC was precisely intended to depoliticize the Judiciary by doing away with the intervention of the Commission on Appointments. not one to be occupied in an | Page 3 of 4 . or appointments made for partisan considerations. or of satisfying partisan considerations because any recommended candidate first had to undergo the vetting of the JBC and pass muster there. To hold like the Court did in Valenzuela that Section 15 extends to appointments to the Judiciary further undermines the intent of the Constitution of ensuring the independence of the Judicial Department from the Executive and Legislative Departments. Article VII was to eliminate midnight appointments. The JBC has no discretion to submit the list of nominees to fill a vacancy in the Supreme Court to the President after the vacancy occurs. In contrast. 20. It is mandatory for the JBC to submit to the President the list of nominees to fill a vacancy in the Supreme Court in order to enable the President to appoint one of them within the 90-day period from the occurrence of the vacancy.

or station. Mandamus is not available to direct the exercise of a judgment or discretion in a particular way. Mandamus 33. The appointment of the next Chief Justice by the incumbent President is preferable to having the Associate Justice who is first in precedence take over. 30. For mandamus to lie. speedy and adequate remedy in the ordinary course of law. 32. Mandamus shall issue when any tribunal. 37. (c) the defendant unlawfully neglects the performance of the duty enjoined by law. A purely ministerial act or duty is one which an officer or tribunal performs in a given state of facts. A discretionary act or duty is one in which the law imposes a duty upon a public officer and gives the right to decide how or when the duty shall be performed. not discretionary. without regard to or the exercise of his own judgment upon the propriety or impropriety of the act done.acting or temporary capacity. however. Section 12 of the Judiciary Act of 1948 only responds to a rare situation in which the new Chief Justice is not yet appointed. as the head of the entire Judiciary. or in which the incumbent Chief Justice is unable to perform the duties and powers of the office. 34.The lack of any appointed occupant of the office of Chief Justice harms the independence of the Judiciary. (d) the act to be performed is ministerial. and the confirmation process might take longer than expected. Discretionary Act 36. (b) it must be the duty of the defendant to perform the act. board. “Acting” Chief Justice under the Judiciary Act of 1948 29. The duty is ministerial only when the discharge of the same requires neither the exercise of official discretion or judgment. and (e) there is no appeal or any other plain. The Chief Justice. because it is mandated by law. in a prescribed manner. but its selections of the candidates whose names will be in the list to be submitted to the President lies within the discretion of the JBC. trust. in obedience to the mandate of a legal authority. that the Judiciary Act was enacted because the Chief Justice appointed under the 1935 Constitution was subject to the confirmation of the Commission on Appointments. officer or person unlawfully neglects the performance of an act that the law specifically enjoins as a duty resulting from an office. corporation. Ministerial Act vs. It is to be noted. the following must be complied with: (a) the plaintiff has a clear legal right to the act demanded. | Page 4 of 4 . 38. 35. performs functions absolutely significant to the life of the nation. The duty of the JBC to submit a list of nominees before the start of the President’s mandatory 90-day period to appoint is ministerial. Chief Justice 31.