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Fajardo, Claudine Dominique R.

2-F
Administrative Law

In Re Appointments dated March 30, 1998 of Hon. Mateo A. Valenzuela and


Hon. Placido B. Vallarta as Judges of the RTC of Branch 62, Bago City and
of Branch 24, Cabanatuan City, respectively
358 Phil 896-918
November 9, 1998
Supreme Court En Banc
Narvasa, C.J.

Doctrine:
During the period of the ban on appointments under Section 15, Article 7
of the Constitution, the President is neither required to make appointments to the
Court nor allowed to do so. Sections 4(1) and 9 of Article 8 only mean that the
President is required to fill vacancies in the Courts within the time frame provided
therein unless prohibited by Section 15 of Article 7.

Facts:
Referred to the Court En Banc were the appointments signed by then
President Fidel V. Ramos on March 20, 1998 of Hon. Mateo A. Valenzuela and
Hon. Placido B. Vallarta as RTC Judges. The referral was made in view of the
serious constitutional issue concerning said appointments arising from the
pertinent antecedents.
On March 9, 1998, the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) conducted a
meeting to discuss the question raised by some sectors about the
constitutionality of appointments to the Court of Appeals, specifically, in light of
the forthcoming presidential elections. Attention was drawn to the Section 15 of
Article 7 and Sections 4(1) and 9 of Article 8 of the 1987 Constitution. According
to Senior Associate Justice Florenz D. Regalado, a consultant of the Council, the
election ban had no application to appointments to the Court of Appeals. The
members of the JBC accepted this hypothesis and submitted it to the President
for consideration along with the Council’s nominations for the eight vacancies in
the Court of Appeals.
On April 6, 1998, Chief Justice Andres Narvasa received an official
communication from the Executive Secretary regarding the appointments of the
eight Associate Justices of the Court of Appeals, all of which have been signed
by President Ramos on March 11, 1998—one day before the commencement of
the ban on appointments. This implied that President Ramos did not agree with
the hypothesis that was presented earlier by the JBC. Because of this, the Chief
Justice decided to temporarily put on hold the consideration of nominations for
the appointments to the Court of Appeals.
On May 4, 1998, the Chief Justice received a letter from the President,
addressed to the JBC, requesting the transmission of the list of final nominees for
the vacancy no later than May 6, 1998. On May 5, 1998, Secretary of Justice
Silvestre Bello III requested the Chief Justice for “guidance” respecting he desire
of the regular members of the JBC to hold a meeting immediately to fill up the
vacancy in the Court. The Chief Justice advised Secretary Bello to wait for the
reply to the President that he was drafting. The next day, the Chief Justice sent
his reply to the President. In his reply, the Chief Justice stated that no sessions
have been scheduled for the council until after the May elections. The Chief
Justice also stated that because the President did not agree with the hypothesis
presented by Senior Associate Justice Regalado, further study of the matter is
necessary to avoid any constitutional issues.
On May 7, 1998, the Chief Justice met with the members of the JBC to
review the events leading to the session. After the session, the JBC agreed to
give the President time to answer the Chief Justice’s letter of May 6, 1998. The
Chief Justice received a reply from the President on the same day. The President
expressed the view that Section 15, Article 7 applies only to executive
appointments or those appointments done within the executive branch of the
government, the whole of article 7 being entitled “EXECUTIVE DEPARTMENT”.
He also stated that appointments to the judiciary have special and specific
provisions applicable to them (i.e. Sections 4(1) and 9 of Article 8 of the 1987
Constitution). As such, the President reiterated his previous request for the JBC
to transmit the final list of nominees for the Court of Appeals vacancy.
On May 8, 1998, the Chief Justice responded to the President by saying
that the Court feels that there is a serious question concerning the matter in light
of the seemingly inconsistent provisions of the Constitution. Section 15, Article 7
does not give specifications of which appointments are proscribed; thus, it shall
be construed as to be applicable to all appointments of any kind and nature. The
only exception to this provision is the case of “executive positions” wherein
temporary appointments may be made to prevent prejudice to public interest and
avoid danger to public safety. It is apparent, according to the Chief Justice, that
the prohibition under Section 15 of Article 7 covers appointments to positions
within the judiciary. The Chief Justice reiterated that further study is necessary to
resolve the seemingly conflicting provisions of Section 15, Article 7 and Sections
4(1) and 9 of Article 8. Having said this, the Chief Justice requested the JBC and
the President to defer any action on the matter while the constitutional provisions
in question are being referred to the Supreme Court En Banc for appropriate
action.
On May 12, 1998, the Chief Justice received from Malacanang the
appointments of Valenzuela and Vallarta. The Chief Justice did not act on the
appointments to avoid any constitutional conflicts. After consideration, the
Supreme Court held that: (1) pending the foregoing proceeding and the
deliberation by the Court on the matter, and until further orders, no action may be
taken on the appointments of Hon. Valenzuela and Hon. Vallarta, which in the
meantime shall be held in abeyance and not given any effect and said
appointees shall refrain from taking their oath of office; and (2) the JBC are
instructed to defer all action on the matter of nominations to fill up any vacancies
in the Supreme Court until further orders. The documents of the appointments for
Valenzuela and Vallarta were kept in the office of the Chief Justice.
In a Resolution dated June 23, 1998, the Court required Mateo A.
Valenzuela to explain by what authority he had taken his oath on May 14, 1998
as judge of Branch 62 of RTC of Bago City. Valenzuela explained that he did so
because on May 7, 1998 he received a copy of his appointment from
Malacanang.

Issues:
(1) WON, during the period of the ban on appointments imposed by Section 15,
Article 7 of the Constitution, the President is nevertheless required to fill
vacancies in the Judiciary, in view of Section 4(1) and Secion 9 of Article 8 of the
same Constitution.
(2) WON the appointments of Valenzuela and Vallarta were valid.

Held:
(1) NO. Section 15, Article 7 of the Constitution states that “Two months before
the next presidential elections and up to the end of his term, a President or
Acting President shall not make appointments, except temporary appointments to
the executive positions when continued vacancies therein will prejudice public
service or endanger public safety”. This provision seems to be in conflict with
those stated under Sections 4(1) and 9 of Article 8, which talk about the
President’s duty to fill any vacancies in the judiciary at the earliest possible time.
In deciding on these seemingly conflicting provisions, the Supreme Court held
that the ban on appointments stated under Section 15, Article 7 should be
construed as the general rule.
During the period of the ban under Section 15, Article 7, the President is neither
required to make appointments to the Court nor allowed to do so. Sections 4(1)
and 9 of Article 8 only mean that the President is required to fill vacancies in the
judiciary within the time frame provided therein unless prohibited by Section 15,
Article 7.
(2) NO. The appointments of Valenzuela and Vallarta were made during the
period of the ban. While the filling of the vacancies in the judiciary is undoubtedly
in the public interest, there is no showing in this case of any compelling reason to
justify the making of the appointment during the period of the ban. The
appointments of Valenzuela and Vallarta were, therefore, declared to be void.