MANILA, Philippines – Former president Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III is considering taking legal action against the people who have filed cases against him.
Aquino hinted about his plans in his speech during the Liberal Party’s (LP) National Executive Council (NECO) meeting on Tuesday, September 25, when his party named its first 3 senatorial bets for 2019.
A reporter later asked the LP chairman emeritus after the event, “You mentioned filing a case against somebody, sir?”
“Yes, yes. Can we wait until we file para specific [na ‘yong information?] Kasi dina-draft ng mga abogado eh… At ‘yong mga nagsampa sa akin, eh ‘di sila ang suspect,” said Aquino.
(Yes, yes. Can we wait until we file it so the information will be specific? Because my lawyers are still drafting it… Those who filed cases against me will be the suspects.)
The former president is now facing a number of cases since his term ended in 2010. These include cases covering the now-partly unconstitutional Disbursement Acceleration Program, the controversial Dengvaxia vaccination program, and his appointment of ousted Supreme Court (SC) chief justice Maria Lourdes Sereno.
In the same speech during the NECO meeting, he mentioned that the SC had recently sent him a one-page letter ordering him to comment on the graft complaint filed against him, Sereno, and the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) by suspended lawyer Eligio Mallari.
Mallari is accusing the officials of violating the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act when they allowed Sereno's application and appointment even though the she did not submit all her Statements of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth.
Aquino said the Ombudsman forwarded the complaint to the SC now that Sereno’s appointment has been nullified when the justices voted in favor of the quo warranto petitioned filed against her.
“Bottomline, ’yon ang nakalagay sa sulat eh ‘no (this is what was written in the letter): we’ve received the complaint, we require you to answer, I believe, in 10 days, which is sometime in October. So I’m meeting my lawyer tomorrow precisely to discuss that,” said Aquino.
Defending the Sereno appointment
The former president still stands by the legality of his appointment of Sereno.
“I wouldn’t have appointed her if I didn’t [believe she is qualified]. And don’t forget, the JBC did not exclude her from the list of nominees from which I should choose,” said Aquino.
He added that he only followed the 1987 Constitution's provisions on nominating SC justices and judges of lower courts.
Section 9, Article VIII states that the President shall appoint members of the SC justices as well as judges of lower courts from a list of at least 3 nominees prepared by the JBC for every vacancy. (READ: EXPLAINER: How the Judicial and Bar Council works)
Aquino said the JBC is expected to have properly assessed the applicants before the list is sent to the President.
“Hindi nila na sasabihin sa’yo bakit ito desisyon namin. Ang presumption of regularity sa listahan (They won’t tell you anymore why their decision is like this. The presumption of regularity in the list is that) these are the people who have applied, they have gotten X number of votes. In effect, we are recommending all of that,” said Aquino.
“So pagdating sa akin, wala na halos detalye. Parang ang sinabi, lahat ito pumasa na sa qualifications,” he added.
(So when it reaches me, it does not have much detail anymore. They’re already saying these are all the people who passed the qualifications.)
According to Aquino, the Constitution further bars the President from returning or seeking to amend the list of nominees.
“The Constitution does not allow me [to do that]. And GMA (Gloria Macapagal Arroyo) tried it before. She got the list, she sent it back, and the JBC said no, you cannot tell us to change the list,” said Aquino.
In 2009, then president and now Speaker Arroyo returned the short list to the JBC and requested for more nominees for the two SC positions left vacant by the retirement of then associate justices Dante Tiñga and Alicia Austria-Martinez.