Blogs have been touting the news that President Rodrigo Duterte is set to appoint former Senator Miriam Santiago as the next Supreme Court Chief Justice, replacing current Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno.
It was also shared by Duterte fan pages on Facebook, such as this one.
Upon checking the content of the article, we found out that it was an old article published by the Inquirer on June 28, 2012 with the original title, “Sen. Santiago: I’m flattered, but no thanks.” It was about her saying no to the possibility of becoming Chief Justice at 68, mainly because she was elected as a justice in the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague.
But Google has turned up other blogs about the same topic.
Aside from du30newsinfo.com, the news was also published by blogs like newstrendph.com, and tahonews.com, philippinenewsnow.com, among others.
Articles on other blogs seemed to have been sourced from tahonews.com.
Taho News claimed that a confidential source in Malacañang said that Duterte has come up with a solution to “stop the Supreme Court from questioning his statements,” and that is to appoint a new chief justice in the person of Santiago. This reportedly came after Duterte replied to Sereno’s statement not to surrender without a warrant of arrest.
The article also claimed that their source has told them that Duterte is offering the former senator to be “treated in a world-trusted cancer treatment center in Philadelphia, USA, and that she will consider his offer to replace Sereno.”
Debunking the news
In light of the claims by these blogs, a Santiago Facebook fan page, The Legacy of Miriam Defensor Santiago, has debunked the news on four points, such as the following:
“1. As with other Justice of the Supreme Court, the Chief Justice is obliged to retire upon reaching the age of 70. Miriam is already 71 years old.
- There is no term limit for a Chief Justice unless he/she reaches the age of 70. Are these fabricators implying that the president is concocting devious plans to impeach CJ Sereno?
- Miriam is already being taken care of [by] the best of the best doctors in the world. Her panel of doctors came from St. Lukes and the Memorial Sloan Kettering Center in New York, considered the top authority on cancer research in the world.”
And for the fourth point in debunking the news, the fan page noted how most voters did not vote for the former senator because of her health issues while battling cancer.
“And finally, the main reason why people didn’t vote for Miriam in the presidential election was her illness. Many of you were predicting that she would die within six years, so bakit niyo siya ngayon gustong bigyan ng posisyon na equal lang sa president?” the fan page said.
The page also said that whoever wrote this fake news could be using Santiago’s name to further improve the popularity of Duterte’s administration.
“Clearly, the Iron Lady’s name is being used to drum up the popularity of this administration,” the fan page added.
Netizen Miyako Izabel has harsh words to say to those who spread this fake news about Santiago’s appointment, calling them “uto-uto (gullible)” and “bobo (dumb).”
She was reacting to this article from a blog called breakingnewsies.blogspot.ca about Duterte reaching out to Santiago to get her the best cancer treatment in the US and to make her Sereno’s replacement.
“Ginagawa pang parang bobo ang aking idolo. Matalino si Miriam Santiago at huwag niyo ngang idamay sa inyong pang-uuto at panloloko,” Izabel wrote.
She said that whoever wanted to have the current chief justice replaced has to impeach her first and Santiago knows this.
“Una, alam niya na ang kasalukuyang nakaupo sa posisyon ng Chief Justice ng Korte Suprema ay hindi madaling tanggalin at palitan. Dadaan muna si Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno sa impeachment sa Kongreso. Alalahanin niyo na kakaunti lang ang mga walang kakayanang mag-isip sa Senado na siyang magdedesisyon sa kasong impeachment kung magkakaroon man,” she added.
In her second point in debunking the news, she noted how wrong it was for the author to make it seem like the former senator does not know that the judiciary is independent of Duterte’s executive branch.
“Pangalawa, alam din ni Miriam Santiago na independente ang hudikatura kaya malabong sasabihin niya sa pangulo na ‘It would be an honor to work for you.’ Pero kung totoong sinabi ‘yan ni Miriam Santiago, sana lang hindi naapektuhan ang galling niya ng mga gamut na kanyang iniinom,” Izabel said.
Her third point was the fact that Santiago is already 71 years old, hence beyond the retirement age set for a chief justice.
“Ay, may pangatlo pa pala. Seventy-one na ang edad ni Miriam Santiago (June 15, 1945) at lagpas na sa retirement age para sa mga justice at judge sa hudikatura,” she added.
Izabel then asked why Filipinos fall for these kinds of fake news and how they should respect themselves by not being gullible.
“Mga Pilipino, bakit kayo nagpapagago, nagpapakabobo, at nagpapauto? Galangin niyo naman ang inyong mga sarili. Mag-isip kayo,” she said.
She also addressed the propagandists when she wrote, “At sa mga propagandistang nakakaawa at nakakatawa, pinag-iisipan po nang maigi at maayos ang paggawa at pagkalat ng propaganda para hindi sasablay o magiging bokya ang resulta. Marami pa nga kayong kanin na kakainin. Heto lang ang payong sasabihin ko: magbasa at magsaliksik,” she added.
Izabel also posted Section 11 of Article VIII in the 1987 Constitution about the Judicial Department, which states that “The Members of the Supreme Court and judges of lower courts shall hold office during good behavior until they reached the age of seventy years or become incapacitated to discharge the duties of their office. The Supreme Court en banc shall have the power to discipline judges of lower courts, or order their dismissal by a vote of a majority of the Members who actually took part in the deliberations on the issues in the case and voted thereon.”
If Duterte does consider replacing Sereno, he won’t be easily able to do because he cannot just point to any replacement.
According to Article VIII Section 8.1, “A Judicial and Bar Council is hereby created under the supervision of the Supreme Court composed of the Chief Justice as ex officio Chairman, the Secretary of Justice, and a representative of the Congress as ex offiicio Members, a representative of the Integrated Bar, a professor of law, a retired Member of the Supreme Court, and a representative of the private sector.”
Section 8.5 also stated the function of the JBC: “The Council shall have the principal function of recommending appointees to the Judiciary. It may exercise such other functions and duties as the Supreme Court may assign to it.”
Section 9 also specified that “The Members of the Supreme Court and judges of the lower courts shall be appointed by the President from a list of at least three nominees prepared by the Judicial and Bar Council for every vacancy. Such appointees need no confirmation.”
After probably receiving some backlash on their reporting, Taho News made an update to their post in the afternoon of August 28, stating Article VIII, Sections 7.1 and 9, citing the qualifications of a member of the judiciary.
The blog concluded, “Therefore, a Supreme Court justice can only be replaced once he or she has retired, has been ousted via impeachment, or has passed away. It then follows that President Duterte cannot just replace CJ Sereno with any person he likes, even if the public is very much in favor of the appointee.”
Among the comments bashing the blog for false reporting, one Facebook user also said that Santiago is banned by law from holding any government position for a year because she ran as a presidential candidate in the May 9 elections and lost.
However, most of the comments celebrated Santiago’s possible appointment, while others even recommended Public Attorney’s Office (PAO) Chief Persida V. Rueda-Acosta as the next chief justice.
As what has been pointed out above, Sereno will retire in 2030, when she turns 70. Unless she gets impeached or rendered incapable in performing her duties, she will continue to be the Supreme Court Chief Justice.
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