MANILA, Philippines - Malacañang asked the Supreme Court (SC) yesterday to lift its order temporarily stopping the implementation of President Aquino’s Executive Order 2 on former National Commission on Muslim Filipinos (NCMF) secretary Bai Omera Dianalan-Lucman. EO 2 revokes midnight appointments of the previous administration.
In a very urgent supplemental motion, Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr. argued that Lucman misled the Court into issuing the status quo ante order last week since her appointment was illegal from the start, given the late receipt by the Malacañang Records Office (MRO) of her appointment.
“Petitioner Lucman’s appointment as NCMF commissioner, like most of the appointments supposedly made in March 2010, suffers from the vice of nullity. No presumption of regularity can be accorded to her appointment,” the Palace said in the 18-page pleading filed through the Office of the Solicitor General.
The Palace argued that Lucman’s appointment papers did not pass through the MRO before its issuance, contrary to established and time-honored procedure.
Ochoa explained that the appointment letter was received by the office only on March 4, 2010 and that there was no date as to when such appointment was released by the Office of the Executive Secretary.
He also cited the discrepancy with the barcodes found on the appointment papers not only of Lucman but of other appointees as well.
A barcode is a series of lines of various widths that is a representation of information for the barcode reader. The barcode system is employed by the Office of the President to authenticate documents issued by the office and to track the status of the document.
“For the multitude of appointments made by then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in March 2010, there are discrepancies in the barcodes of the appointment papers, such that there are appointment papers of appointees who are supposedly appointed on the same date but whose barcode numbers are not in series, or are very far apart,” Ochoa said.
Lastly, the Palace said that Lucman is not qualified as NCMF head under section 16 of Republic Act 9997, the law creating NCMF, which specifies that only males could be appointed secretary of the commission.
He said RA 9997 provides that the Secretary of NCMF shall be appointed as “Amirul Hajj,” which means “leader of the hajj.”
Hajj is an annual pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia. All Muslims who are physically able must make this journey once in a lifetime.
“The word ‘amir’ pertains to a male leader. Considering that the term used was Amirul, it means that only men can be an Amirul Hajj,” the Palace argued.
“As discussed, this is based on Islamic tradition, and supported by writings of Islamic scholars. Verily, only men can lead the congregational prayer and deliver the Khutbah or sermon during the culmination of the Hajj,” it added. The Palace likewise said that Lucman misled the SC into issuing the status quo ante order when she said without her as secretary, the Hajj will be imperiled, since she was in charge of its preparations.
Ochoa said the Hajj is being taken care of by Secretary Aminoddin Barra, the President’s appointee as replacement of Lucman, who was one of the 977 identified by Malacañang as Arroyo’s midnight appointees.
The appeal of the Palace was submitted for the consideration of the full-court session yesterday, but magistrates just took note of it without immediate action.
The status quo ante order issued by the Court on Lucman’s case created an apparent conflict between the judiciary and the executive branch, with Mr. Aquino himself accusing the Court of stalling his reform programs, fearing its order would have “far-reaching consequences” including “chaos and paralysis in the executive branch.”
The SC, however, dispelled such fears, stressing that the order only covers Lucman.
“It would be very difficult to reinstate the many others who were removed from their posts. The Court is aware of this consequence to the executive,” explained court administrator and spokesman Midas Marquez.
Edu Punay, Philippine Star