G.R. No. 86439 – 172 SCRA 150 – Political Law – Constitutional Law – The Executive Department – Powers of the President; Appointment Powers – Appointment to the Commission on Human Rights – Security of Tenure – CHR commissioners not subject to confirmation by the Commission on Appointments
In August 1987, then President Corazon Aquino designated Mary Concepcion-Bautista as the Acting Chairwoman of the Commission on Human Rights. In December 1987, Cory made the designation of Bautista permanent. Bautista then took her oath of office.
Later however, Bautista received a letter from the Commission on Appointments (COA) requiring her to submit certain documents for her qualification and for confirmation by the COA. Bautista then wrote a letter to the COA Chairman, Senate President Jovito Salonga, and she explained that her position as chairwoman of the CHR does not require confirmation by the COA as laid down in the case of Sarmiento vs Mison.
Meanwhile, pending the issue of Bautista’s appointment with the COA, Cory designated Hesiquio Mallilin as the acting chairman of the CHR.
In 1989, the COA finally disapproved the appointment of Bautista. COA considered Bautista’s appointment as “ad interim”.
Bautista went to the Supreme Court and questioned COA’s actions. She impleaded Mallillin. Mallillin on his part invoked Executive Order No. 163-A which provided that the appointment of the CHR chair is at the pleasure of the president. Hence, since Cory left the issue with the COA and the latter decided not to confirm Bautista, Mallillin should be allowed to take his seat as chairman of the CHR.
ISSUE: Whether or not Bautista’s appointment is subject to COA’s confirmation.
HELD: No. The appointment of the Chairman and Members of the CHR is not specifically provided for in the Constitution itself, unlike the Chairmen and Members of the Civil Service Commission, the Commission on Elections, and the Commission on Audit, whose appointments are expressly vested by the Constitution in the President with the consent of the COA. The President appoints the Chairman and Members of the CHR pursuant to the second sentence in Sec 16, Art. 7, that is, without the confirmation of the COA because they are among the officers of government “whom he (the President) may be authorized by law to appoint.” The law which authorizes the president to make appointments to the CHR is Executive Order No. 163.
The act of Cory submitting Bautista’s appointment to the COA for confirmation is merely political in nature and it has no basis in law or in the constitution. Appointment to the CHR should be made without the participation of the COA. Thus, Cory’s act of submitting the appointment of Bautista to the CHR is done without or in excess of jurisdiction.
Even assuming arguendo that the President can submit such appointment to the COA for the latter’s approval or rejection, such submission is not valid because at the time of submission, the office of the chairman (chairwoman) of the CHR is not vacant – as at that time, Bautista already took her oath and was the incumbent CHR chairperson.
There is also no basis for the COA to consider Bautista’s appointment as “ad interim”. Since the position of chairman and members of the CHR are not subject to COA confirmation, all appointments to the CHR are always permanent and cannot be ad interim.
Anent the argument of Mallillin that EO 163-A provides that the chairman and members of the CHR may be removed at the pleasure of the president, the same is not valid. Thus, EO 163-A is unconstitutional. Note that the earlier EO 163 provides that the chairman and the members of the CHR shall have a term of 7 years. The Chairman and the Commissioners of the CHR cannot be removed at the pleasure of the president for it is guaranteed that they must have a term of office. They can only be removed upon cause and with the observance of due process.