SC Upholds Validity of GMA Appointments
Byline: REY G. PANALIGAN
The Supreme Court yesterday said President Arroyo can appoint Cabinet secretaries in acting capacity even without the consent of the Commission on Appointments (CA) while Congress is in session.
With the ruling, the High Court upheld the validity of the President's appointments of eight Cabinet secretaries in acting capacity, among them Alberto Romulo for foreign affairs, Raul Gonzalez for justice, Avelino Cruz Jr. for national defense, and Joseph Ace Durano for tourism. The appointments were made while Congress was in session in August, 2004.
In a unanimous full-court decision written by Justice Antonio T. Carpio, the High Court dismissed the petition filed by Senators Aquilino Pimentel Jr., Edgardo Angara, Juan Ponce Enrile, Luisa Ejercito Estrada, Jinggoy Estrada, Panfilo Lacson, Alfredo Lim, Jamby Madrigal, and Sergio Osmena III.
"The essence of an appointment in an acting capacity is its temporary nature. It is a stop-gap measure intended to fill an office for a limited time until the appointment of a permanent occupant to the office," the High Court said.
"The office of a department secretary may become vacant while Congress is in session. Since a department secretary is the alter ego of the President, the acting appointee to the office must necessarily have the President's confidence," it said.
"Thus, by the nature of the office of a department secretary, the President must appoint in an acting capacity a person of her choice even while Congress is in session."
In arguing that President Arroyo's appointment of acting secretaries in August 2004 was unconstitutional, the nine senators claimed that "in case of a vacancy in the office of a secretary, it is only an undersecretary who can be designated as acting secretary."
The nine senators cited the powers and duties of a department undersecretary under Section 10, Chapter 2, Book IV of Executive Order No. 292, among them, to "temporarily discharge the duties of the secretary in the latter's absence or inability to discharge his duties... and the President shall likewise make the temporary designation of acting secretary from among them." (undersecretaries).
The senators argued that "while Congress is in session, there can be no appointments, whether regular or acting, to a vacant position of an office needing confirmation by the Commission on Appointments, without first having obtained its consent. …