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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, Taxpayers Suit, Citizens 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.

Taxpayers Suit vs. Citizens Suit

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5. In Beauchamp v. Silk, it was held that in a taxpayers suit, the plaintiff is affected by the expenditure
of public funds, while in a citizens suit, the plaintiff is but a mere instrument of the public concern.

6. Terr v. 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.

Transcendental Importance

7. 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, or otherwise requires a liberalization
of the requirement.

Justiciable Issue

8. Although the position is not yet vacant, the fact that the JBC began the process of nomination
pursuant to its rules and practices, although it has yet to decide whether to submit the list of nominees to
the incumbent outgoing President or to the next President, makes the situation ripe for judicial
determination.

9. 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 is enough that one alleges conduct arguably affected with a
constitutional interest, but seemingly proscribed by the Constitution.

10. A reasonable certainty of the occurrence of the perceived threat to a constitutional interest is
sufficient to afford a basis for bringing a challenge, provided the Court has sufficient facts before it to
enable to intelligently adjudicate the issues.

Midnight Appointment Ban

11. The prohibition against presidential appointments under Section 15, Article VII does not extend to
appointments in the Judiciary.

12. Article VII is devoted to the Executive Department. Specifically, the presidential power of
appointment is dealt with in Sections 14, 15 and 16 of the Article. On the other hand, Article VIII is
dedicated to the Judicial Department. Section 4(1) and Section 9 specifically provide for the appointment
of the Supreme Court Justices.

13. Had the framers intended to extend the prohibition contained in Section 15, Article VII to the
appointment of Members of the Supreme Court, they could have explicitly done so. They could not have
ignored the meticulous ordering of the provisions.

Statutory Construction

14. The usage in Section 4(1), 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.

15. It is the intent of the Constitutional Commission to have Section 4(1), Article VIII stand independently
of any other provision, least of all one found in Article VII. The two provisions had no irreconcilable
conflict, regardless of Section 15, Article VII being couched in the negative.

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16. The enactment should be construed with reference to its intended scope and purpose, and the court
should seek to carry out this purpose rather than to defeat it.

Rationale for the Prohibition

17. One of the reasons underlying the adoption of Section 15, Article VII was to eliminate midnight
appointments, or appointments made for partisan considerations, from being made by an outgoing Chief
Executive.

18. In contrast, the appointments to the Judiciary made after the establishment of the JBC would not be
suffering from such defects because of the JBCs prior processing of candidates.

Judicial and Bar Council

19. The creation of the JBC was precisely intended to depoliticize the Judiciary by doing away with the
intervention of the Commission on Appointments.

20. 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, or of satisfying partisan considerations
because any recommended candidate first had to undergo the vetting of the JBC and pass muster there.

21. 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.

22. 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, because that shortens the 90-day period allowed by the Constitution
for the President to make the appointment.

Valenzuela Ruling Reversed

23. Valenzuela arbitrarily ignored the express intent of the Constitutional Commission to have Section
4(1), Article VIII stand independently of any other provision, least of all one found in Article VII.

24. Valenzuela was weak, because it relied on interpretation to determine the intent of the framers
rather than on the deliberations of the Constitutional Commission.

25. 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.

Appointment to the Supreme Court

26. The Supreme Court is composed of a Chief Justice and 14 Associate Justices, who all shall be
appointed by the President from a list of at least three nominees prepared by the JBC for every vacancy,
which appointments require no confirmation by the Commission on Appointments.

27. With reference to the Chief Justice, he or she is appointed by the President as Chief Justice, and the
appointment is never in an acting capacity.

28. The framers intended the position of Chief Justice to be permanent, not one to be occupied in an
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acting or temporary capacity.

Acting Chief Justice under the Judiciary Act of 1948

29. Section 12 of the Judiciary Act of 1948 only responds to a rare situation in which the new Chief
Justice is not yet appointed, or in which the incumbent Chief Justice is unable to perform the duties and
powers of the office.

30. It is to be noted, however, 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, and
the confirmation process might take longer than expected.

Chief Justice

31. The Chief Justice, as the head of the entire Judiciary, performs functions absolutely significant to the
life of the nation.The lack of any appointed occupant of the office of Chief Justice harms the
independence of the Judiciary.

32. 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.

Mandamus

33. Mandamus shall issue when any tribunal, corporation, board, officer or person unlawfully neglects
the performance of an act that the law specifically enjoins as a duty resulting from an office, trust, or
station.

34. Mandamus is not available to direct the exercise of a judgment or discretion in a particular way.

35. For mandamus to lie, the following must be complied with: (a) the plaintiff has a clear legal right to
the act demanded; (b) it must be the duty of the defendant to perform the act, because it is mandated by
law; (c) the defendant unlawfully neglects the performance of the duty enjoined by law; (d) the act to be
performed is ministerial, not discretionary; and (e) there is no appeal or any other plain, speedy and
adequate remedy in the ordinary course of law.

Ministerial Act vs. Discretionary Act

36. A purely ministerial act or duty is one which an officer or tribunal performs in a given state of facts, in
a prescribed manner, in obedience to the mandate of a legal authority, without regard to or the exercise
of his own judgment upon the propriety or impropriety of the act done. The duty is ministerial only when
the discharge of the same requires neither the exercise of official discretion or judgment.

37. 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.

38. The duty of the JBC to submit a list of nominees before the start of the Presidents mandatory 90-day
period to appoint is ministerial, 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.

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