'SC ruling on Agra case virtual rejection of CJ appointment'
MANILA, Philippines - The Supreme Court (SC) ruling declaring illegal the appointment of Alberto Agra to two concurrent posts in government in 2010 was a virtual rejection of an earlier appointment by Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno of her chief of staff, an insider bared yesterday.
Sereno voted with all 14 other magistrates of the high court to declare unconstitutional the appointment of Agra as acting secretary of justice and solicitor general in full-court session last Tuesday.
But a member of the high court told The STAR that the Chief Justice herself was confronted with the same issue last September when she appointed her chief of staff, lawyer and UP professor Solomon Lumba.
“Both situations are double appointments prohibited by the Constitution,” the insider said.
Justices unanimously voted last Tuesday to declare the designation of Agra to two concurrent posts as a violation of Article VII Section 13 of the 1987 Constitution, which prohibits dual or multiple positions in government.
Agra was appointed solicitor general by then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in January 2010. He was appointed acting justice secretary by Arroyo two months later.
The source explained that the basis of the ruling of the high court on the case of Agra was “the same constitutional provision involved in the appointment by CJ Sereno of Atty. Lumba as her chief of staff while he remained a UP law professor.”
When appointed as judicial staff head by Sereno last September, Lumba was still a professor and secretary of the University of Philippines College of Law, which is under the executive department.
Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, in a letter to Sereno last month, questioned the appointment of Lumba to the SC, which he said could be in violation of the Constitution that prohibits a government official from simultaneously holding two posts in different branches of government – called “secondment.”
But last month Lumba resigned from UP Law, opting to serve full-time in Sereno’s office. Carpio then withdrew his objection.
Earlier, the high court effectively revoked a unilateral order of Sereno last November creating a new judicial office in the Visayas in a resolution last Jan. 22 that created a body to work on the decentralization of its administrative duties.
Sereno issued the order without collegial approval of the high court, according to an internal memorandum of Associate Justice Teresita Leonardo-De Castro.
Sereno even facilitated the reopening rites of the Regional Court Administrative Office after issuing her order.
But the official ruling of the SC, where Sereno concurred, explained: “This Resolution supersedes all prior resolutions, administrative orders and issuances on the covered matter and shall take effect upon its promulgation.”