SC justice denies Palace pressure for early retirement

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Wednesday, May 14, 2014

SUPREME Court (SC) Justice Martin Villarama belied a newspaper report that he had acceded to Malacañang’s wish to retire early in 2016 so that President Benigno Aquino III can appoint a replacement before he steps down from power.

"The alleged Palace pressure on me to retire early is absolutely not true. I have no contact whatsoever with anybody in the Palace. If I do so retire early, the Palace has absolutely nothing to do with it," he said in a statement on Tuesday.

According to the report, Villarama allegedly told fellow magistrates and staff of his desire to leave the SC before he reaches the mandatory retirement age of 70 in April 2016 to give Aquino a chance to name a successor without being accused of making midnight appointments.

The High Court ruled in 1998 that the president cannot make appointments to the courts, nor be required to do so two months immediately before the next presidential elections and up to the end of his or her term.

But the SC reversed itself in March 2010 when it held that the constitutional ban does not cover the High Court, implying that it applies only to the executive department and other lower courts.

That decision gave way to the ascension of then Associate Justice Renato Corona to chief justice, earning the ire of law experts and opposition politicians who viewed the appointment as former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s tactic to thwart prosecution on various cases against her.

Aquino, who has four appointees in the SC, can actually use the same ruling to justify the appointment of Villarama's replacement even in the middle of the election period.

The President will vacate Malacañang in June 2016. (Sunnex)

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