SC Associate Justice Villarama files for optional retirement

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — Supreme Court (SC) Associate Justice Martin Villarama has applied for optional retirement. 

In his letter dated November 2, Villarama sought the approval of his colleagues for his optional retirement effective January 16, 2016.

Villarama is supposed to retire on April 14, 2016, when he reaches the mandatory retirement age of 70.

He cited his deteriorating health brought about by his double-knee metal implantation in 2013 and his cataract operation last year.

If his optional retirement is approved, President Benigno Aquino III will have the opportunity to choose his sixth appointee at the high court.

Villarama explained in his letter to Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno and other associate justices that he had been experiencing difficulty in breathing, hypertension, and symptoms of prostate illness, ailments prevalent among aging men.

Earlier, there were reports claiming that Villarama was being pressured to resign by Malacañan to give way to President Benigno Aquino III to appoint another magistrate before he steps down from office.

But Villarama issued a statement denying that report. He pointed out he had no contact with anybody in the Palace.

If said that if he should decide to retire early, the Palace would have absolutely nothing to do with it.

Under the Constitution, the president is prohibited from making appointments within two months before the next presidential elections.

But in a controversial ruling in March 2010, the high court said the prohibition to appointments made is limited to the executive department.

The ruling pointed out that as stated in the Constitution, the president is mandated to fill in the vacancy in the Supreme Court within 90 days from the occurrence of vacancy.

So far Aquino has five appointees in the Supreme Court — Sereno and Associate Justices Bienvenido Reyes, Estela Perlas-Bernabe, Marvic Leonen, and Francis Jardeleza.