MANILA, Philippines (1st UPDATE) - President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has appointed Associate Justice Renato Corona as the next Supreme Court (SC) Chief Justice.
Deputy presidential spokesman Ricardo Saludo announced that Corona's appointment will take effect as soon as Chief Justice Reynato Puno retires on May 17.
Saludo said Corona was chosen because he is the "most senior SC justice among the 4 nominees" submitted to President Arroyo by the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC).
The 3 other nominees were Associate Justice Teresita de Castro and Arturo Brion and acting Sandiganbayan Presiding Justice Edilberto Sandoval.
The JBC submitted the list to President Arroyo last May 5.
Several groups, including party-list group Bayan Muna, have asked the JBC to submit its list to the next president instead.
Critics had argued that the constitutional ban on appointments nearing the elections covers the chief justice post.
Not covered by election ban
In its April 20 ruling, the SC affirmed its earlier ruling allowing President Arroyo to appoint the next chief justice despite an election ban on midnight appointments.
In its March 17 ruling, 9 justices voted in favor of allowing President Arroyo to appoint Puno's replacement.
The 9 justices were De Castro, Brion, Lucas Bersamin, Jose Perez, Roberto Abad, Martin Villarama, Jose Mendoza, Mariano del Castillo and Diosdado Peralta.
Only one SC magistrate, Conchita Carpio-Morales, dissented.
Two justices, Antonio Eduardo Nachura and Presbitero Velasco Jr., said the case was premature while Corona and 2 other magistrates, Antonio Carpio and Chief Justice Reynato Puno, took no part in the vote.
The justices ruled that President Arroyo can appoint any replacement for vacant positions in the judiciary until her term ends in June 30.