The Supreme Court has overturned the controversial appointment of a Philippine Judicial Academy official by ousted Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno.
In en banc resolution, the SC ruled that the chief justice has no delegated power to appoint administrative officials with judicial ranks, such as lawyer Brenda Jay Mendoza, whom Sereno designated as Philja chief of office for the Philippine Mediation Center in June 2016.
The 15-member bench stressed that only the Court sitting collegially can approve the appointment for such a specific position and other judicial ranks with salary grade of 29 and above.
“This Court’s nature as a collegial body requires that the appointing power be exercised by the Court en banc, consistent with Article VIII, Section 1 of the Constitution,” the SC said, in a ruling written by Associate Justice Marvic Leonen.
“The Philja chief of office for the Philippine Mediation Center receives the same compensation and benefits as an Associate Justice of the Court of Appeals. Due to this position having judicial rank, which bears a salary grade of 30, and consistent with the prior Resolutions of this Court, the Philja chief of office for the Philippine Mediation Center is deemed included as among the positions which shall be appointed by the Court en banc,” the high court declared.
The SC also cited as another flaw in Mendoza’s appointment the lack of recommendation from the Philja board of trustees, which it stressed should have been required under administrative rules.
“Under Administrative Order No. 33-2008, the appointment of Philja chief of office for the Philippine Mediation Center shall be made ‘by the Court, upon recommendation of Philja.’ Prior to the appointment of Mendoza, it is evident that this Court’s practice is to have the Court en banc issue the appointment following the recommendation made by Philjan board of trustees,” it noted.
The tribunal even cited a memorandum issued by Sereno in 2015 that affirmed this policy.
However, the SC did not declare as void Mendoza’s appointment due to her resignation last February during the impeachment proceedings against Sereno in the House of Representatives, saying such legal issue has become moot and academic.
Nonetheless, the high court clarified that the ruling does not mean that Mendoza was disqualified for the position as it only pertained to issue on procedure for her appointment.
Still, the SC has directed the Philja board of trustees to “commence with its selection process for its recommendations” for the said vacancy to be submitted within 60 days.
“The official who is the next most senior in rank shall be the officer-in-charge of the Philippine Mediation Center Office until the appointment of the new Philja chief of office of Philippine Mediation Center,” the Court en banc ordered.
Only Sereno approved Mendoza’s appointment with the concurrence of two chairpersons in the divisions of the high court. It was among the grounds raised in the botched impeachment case against Sereno before she was ousted by her colleagues last June through a quo warranto petition filed by Solicitor General Jose Calida.
The SC made the ruling as it acted on an internal memorandum by now Chief Justice Teresita Leonardo-de Castro in July last year that questioned Mendoza’s appointment. It affirmed De Castro’s position on the issue.
In 2013, the SC revoked the order of Sereno to reopen a regional constitutional administrative office in Visayas without their approval.
Sereno got the ire of her colleagues when she issued Administrative Order No. 175-2012 that created the Judicial Decentralization Office and reopened the post of RCAO in Cebu without getting the approval of the full court.
She appointed Econg to head RCAO-7 and even went to Cebu City for the reopening of the office.
It was also De Castro who questioned Sereno’s order then.