Friday, November 17, 2006

Tradition and seniority

So much is said about the possible appointment of Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago to the Supreme Court but the truth is that there is no law that prevents her appointment. President Arroyo would be well within her right to appoint her to the Court and to designate her as Chief Justice.

This would be nothing new for the President. Arroyo broke the tradition of seniority by designating Artemio Panganiban as Chief Justice and in bypassing Justice Reynato Puno, who was named to the court three years earlier. No other President since Ferdinand Marcos has bypassed the most senior member of the Court when designating the Chief Justice. Marcos’ refusal to honor the tradition of seniority was regarded as a means of retaining control over the judiciary. He bypassed Claudio Teehankee, a Justice critical of the Marcos regime, twice to prevent or delay his rise to the post of chief justice.

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