EVEN before the start of his first one hundred days in office, President BongBong Marcos Jr. already had his plate full in choosing the right people in his cabinet as well as those other inferior officers that the law or otherwise has authorized him to appoint.
So far with respect to the selection of his cabinet members, those considered as his immediate family in the Malacanang Palace, it would appear that he has more or less made the right choices and decisions, inviting no violent reaction whatsoever from the public. But then again this is still the early days of President Marcos Jr.’s administration and in the coming six years ahead expect some changes in his family as he fine-tunes the government machinery, particularly in the executive department which he heads.
For those of us ordinary folks, it is important to understand that the president of the Republic has been granted the power of appointment by no less than the highest law of the land, the 1987 Philippine Constitution. But such power and authority come with its own set of limitations, which is also embodied in the said law, and the term appointment likewise carries a new meaning when it concerns his cabinet members.
Section 16 of Article VII of the 1987 Constitution provides the following:
“The President shall nominate and, with the consent of the Commission on Appointments, appoint the heads of the executive departments, ambassadors, other public ministers, and consuls, or officers of the armed forces from the rank of colonel or naval captain, and other officers whose appointments are vested in him in this Constitution. He shall also appoint all other officers of the Government whose appointments are not otherwise provided for by law and those whom he may be authorized by law to appoint. The Congress may, by law, vest the appointment of other officers lower in rank in the President alone, in the courts, or in the heads of departments, agencies, commissions, or boards. Xxx.”
Thus we now understand that when the president selects someone to become a cabinet secretary to head a particular department in the executive branch he is actually making a nomination which will then be referred to the Commission on Appointments (CA) to obtain its consent or affirmation before that nominated secretary is finally appointed by the president.
It is generally understood that the CA, which is a constitutionally created body, serves as a check and balance on the appointing power of the president so that such power is not abused.
Technically speaking then, when the president issues an official appointment to head an executive department, an ambassador, other public ministers, and consuls, or officers of the armed forces from the rank of colonel or naval captain, as well as other officers mandated by the constitution to be appointed by the president, it carries with it the imprimatur and backing of the CA.
The Supreme Court, in Pimentel Jr. vs Ermita (G.R. No. 164978; 472 SCRA 587) describes the CA this way:
“The Commission on Appointments (CA) is a constitutional body under the 1987 Philippine Constitution. It is an independent body separate and distinct from the Legislature although its membership is confined to the members of Congress. The Philippine republican system of government is defined by the absolute separation of power among its three co-equal branches: the Executive, the Legislative and the Judiciary. To ensure that interference and overlapping of influence amongst the three is prevented, the Constitution established a system of checks and balances by creating the CA, making it an integral element of the government. The CA does not curtail the President’s appointing authority but serves as a check against its abuse. It assures that the President has exercised the power to appoint wisely, by appointing only those who are fit and qualified.”
It now becomes obvious that those to be officially appointed as cabinet secretaries in the executive branch were not only chosen by the president alone but also chosen by the members of the CA which comprise “the president of the Senate, as ex-officio Chairman, and an equal number of Senators and Members of the House of Representatives (12 each), elected by each House on the basis of proportional representation from the political parties and parties or organizations registered under the party-list system represented in Congress.” (Section 18, Article VI of the 1987 Philippine Constitution)
So if a cabinet secretary or an ambassador or consul or very high officers of the armed forces fail in their duties as public servants, then the blame should not only fall on the shoulders of the president for making a bad choice but should also include those in the CA who gave their consent or confirmation for such appointments.