, JULY 27, 2007 (STAR) By Paolo Romero - President Arroyo may announce next week a new appointee for the vacancy in the Supreme Court after the members of the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) meet on Monday to discuss the status of Sandiganbayan Associate Justice Gregory Ong, whose appointment to the SC was held in abeyance owing to questions on his citizenship.

Justice Secretary Raul Gonzalez, who is a member of the JBC, said it unlikely that the body would reopen the list of candidates to the lone SC vacancy since the remaining four contenders have all been interviewed already.

He said there is no need to submit a new list to Mrs. Arroyo since she already has one nominee on her desk for consideration. He however stressed that these were his own opinions.

“Our meeting will most likely be on Justice Ong,” Gonzalez said in a telephone interview, adding he would still have to be updated on Ong’s case. The nominee was ordered by the SC to prove his citizenship.

Gonzalez issued the statement as the 90-day period for Mrs. Arroyo to appoint a SC justice lapsed yesterday.

Appointees to the SC must be natural born Filipinos, according to the Constitution. Ong, whom Mrs. Arroyo appointed last June, is reportedly a naturalized Filipino citizen whose parents were Chinese citizens.

The SC justices earlier unanimously voted to stop Ong from becoming the 15th member of the tribunal until he can prove he is a natural-born Filipino citizen and corrects the records of his birth and citizenship.

The High Court granted the petition of two foundations that sought to block Ong’s appointment over the citizenship issue.

“I am a Filipino. I lived and will live my life as a Filipino. I raised my children to be law-abiding Filipinos,” Ong said when the decision was handed down.

Other names in the JBC shortlist are Sandiganbayan Presiding Justice Teresita de Castro; Court of Appeals Presiding Justice Ruben Reyes; Court of Appeals Associate Justice Martin Villarama Jr.; Court of Tax Appeals Presiding Justice Ernesto Acosta; Labor Secretary Arturo Brion; Court of Appeals Associate Justice Edgardo Cruz; and Sandiganbayan Associate Justice Francisco Villaruz Jr.

The SC said Ong had the burden of proving in court the citizenship of his ancestors, as well as his own citizenship, under the 1935, 1972 and 1987 Constitutions.

“Until this is done, respondent Ong cannot accept an appointment to this court as that would be a violation of the Constitution,” the SC ruling said.

GMA rating unchanged – Pulse Asia Friday, July 27, 2007

(STAR) President Arroyo’s performance ratings remained unchanged in the past three months even as other top government officials got higher public approval, according to the latest Ulat ng Bayan survey of Pulse Asia.

The Pulse Asia’s July 2007 Ulat ng Bayan national survey on the Performance of the Top 5 Government Officials and the President’s State of the Nation Address (SONA) was conducted from June 28 to July 10 using interviews with 1,200 adults with ages ranging from 18 years and above.

The survey was released on July 22, a day before the President’s SONA.

Mrs. Arroyo’s approval rating, however, increased by 10 percentage points in the best-off Class ABC as well as an increase of eight percentage points in her indecision rating in Metro Manila, Pulse Asia said.

Filipinos are divided in their assessment of Mrs. Arroyo’s performance in the past three months with 36 percent of them “ambivalent” on the matter, 34 percent “critical,” and 30 percent “appreciative” of her work, Pulse Asia said.

As in previous surveys, Pulse Asia said, those in the Visayas continue to grant the President her highest approval rating of 41 percent, followed by those in Mindanao with 38 percent.

Pulse Asia said the approval ratings of Vice President Noli de Castro, Senate President Manuel Villar, Speaker Jose de Venecia and Chief Justice Reynato Puno increased by 10 to 14 percentage points during this period.

De Castro and Villar currently enjoy majority approval ratings of 55 percent and 67 percent, respectively.

De Venecia, on the other hand, registered almost the same approval ratings of 34 percent. – Helen Flores

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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