The Supreme Court (SC) has laid down the guidelines in the appointments of commissioners and chairpersons in the three constitutional commissions - Commission on Audit (CoA), Commission on Elections (Comelec), and Civil Service Comission (CSC) -- to prevent a President with a six-year term of office to control such offices and deprive them of their independence and impartiality.
The guidelines were handed down in the case filed by lawyer Dennis A.B. Funa who challenged the constitutionality of the appointment in 2008 of Reynaldo Villar as CoA chairman in place of Guillermo Carague who retired in the same year.
The full court decision, granting partially Funa's petition, was written by Justice Presbitero J. Velasco Jr.
Villar's appointment as CoA chairman by then President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo was specified as only until 2011 or up to the expiration of his seven-year term as commissioner which commenced in 2004.
But Villar claimed that his appointment as CoA chairman is for the full seven-year term ending in 2015 from 2008, the year he was appointed chairman by then President Arroyo.
When President Benigno S. Aquino III became president in 2010, Villar manifested that he would relinquish his post once a new CoA chairman would be appointed. True enough, Villar stepped down when President Aquino appointed Ma. Grace Pulido-Tan as new CoA chairperson.
The SC said that the petition could be dismissed outright as it became academic with the appointment of a new CoA chairperson and the stepping down of Villar from the top CoA post.
"This case before us is of transcendental importance, since it obviously has 'far-reaching implications,' and there is a need to promulgate rules that will guide the bench, bar, and the public in future analogous cases. We, thus, assume a liberal stance and allow petitioner to institute the instant petition," the SC said. (Rey Panaligan)