MANILA, Philippines - Malacañang officials lashed back at Sen. Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III, calling him arrogant and ignorant for saying that he will not recognize a Supreme Court chief justice appointed by President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.
"A combination of arrogance and ignorance. As presidential candidate, you have to respect the current dispensation. A Constitution has three branches, you do not threaten a co-equal branch," Prospero Pichay, President Arroyo's political affairs adviser, said in a press conference in Malacañang.
Pichay was reacting to Aquino's statement on Thursday that he will not recognize the next chief justice who may be appointed by President Arroyo.
Aquino also warned Supreme Court justices from accepting an appointment by Mrs. Arroyo as the next chief justice. He said the justices would be risking his or her presence in the Court as an associate member.
Aquino made the statement on the assumption that he will be elected as the next president.
The senator's statement was a reaction to debates on whether Mrs. Arroyo is allowed by law to appoint a replacement for retiring Chief Justice Reynato Puno while there is a ban on midnight appointments.
Puno will retire on May 17, which is within the constitutional midnight appointments ban of an outgoing President.
Pichay said Aquino's threat against SC justices was a "big blunder" and a sign that "he will become a dangerous president."
"Even Marcos didn't threaten the judiciary," the presidential adviser said, referring to the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos.
Pichay also insisted that appointment of a new chief justice does not have to go through the Judicial Bar Council, which vets nominees to the judiciary.
Press Secretary Cerge Remonde, meanwhile, said that there could be a "failure of assumption" to the presidency if there is still no appointed new chief justice who will swear in the next elected president.
"Baka magka-failure of assumption imbes na failure of elections," Remonde said.
He also defended Mrs. Arroyo's appointments of all the incumbent justices in the high court, insisting that it was President Arroyo's job to fill up the posts.
He said the political opposition is just trying to twist the issue and use it as a campaign tool in the elections. With a report from RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News