You may be aware that out of the 15 Supreme Court justices, 12 were appointees of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. There’s nothing wrong with that, considering that the President has the constitutional duty to appoint Supreme Court justices.
You may also be aware that 7 justices will retire next year, 2009. That means PGMA is duty-bound to appoint seven new Supreme Court justices. Two of the seven retirees were appointed by former Presidents Fidel Ramos and Joseph Estrada. That means that before the 2010 Presidential election, 14 out of the 15 Supreme Court justices are PGMA appointees. Only the Chief Justice, Reynato Puno, will remain a non-PGMA appointee.
The judiciary, of course, is the third branch of government. The other two branches are the executive and legislative. Each one is co-equal and acts as a check against the other two. The system of checks-and-balances will only work if each branch is truly independent.
Imagine this scenario: the executive branch is headed by PGMA, the legislative is controlled by political party/parties allied to PGMA, and almost all (14 out of 15) of the Supreme Court justices in 2009 are PGMA appointees.
This scenario led to the re-launch of the SC Appointments Watch (SCAW), a coalition which is preparing to monitor the selection process for Supreme Court justices. It’s a colation composed of the Alternative Law Groups (ALG), Libertas, Philippine Association of Law Schools (PALS), Transparency and Accountability Network, among others.
Some say these groups have a overactive imagination and that the fears are unfounded. After all, it’s not the fault of PGMA that she is required by the Constitution to appoint justices. Others say that the fears of a less-than-independent Supreme Court is not unfounded, as exemplified during the Martial Law years. Some say it doesn’t matter, because assuming the worst fear turns out to be true, there’s nothing you can do about it.
What say you?