SOLICITOR General Alfredo Benipayo has resigned in the middle of a critical legal battle in court to justify the legality of President Macapagal-Arroyo’s controversial Proclamation No. 1017.

A former Court of Appeals justice, Manila Regional Trial court judge, and Commission on Elections chair, Benipayo reportedly quit because Malacañang was displeased on his defense of 1017 before the Supreme Court. The President accepted the irrevocable resignation of Benipayo last March 15 and appointed presidential chief legal counsel Eduardo Nachura in his stead two days later.

Benipayo refused to comment on his resignation.

Civil Law dean Augusto Aligada, however, said Benipayo’s resignation is a loss to the government.

“He is one of a few people I know whose integrity is beyond question,” he said.

An official at the Office of the Solicitor General told the Philippine Daily Inquirer that Malacañang pressured Benipayo to step down. But Justice Secretary Raul Gonzales, a Faculty of Civil Law alumnus, denied the speculations, saying Benipayo “did his best in doing his job.”

“Nobody is perfect in performing his job. I know he was doing his best,” Gonzales told the Inquirer.

Gonzales said Benipayo disclosed that he was “burned out” by the numerous cases he was handling for the government. Aside from defending Proclamation No. 1017, Benipayo is also handling the government’s defense in cases questioning the constitutionality of the “Calibrated Pre-emptive Response” policy on demonstration, and Executive Order no. 464, which prohibits government officials from testifying in congressional hearings without the President’s clearance.

Press secretary Ignacio Bunye said the President accepted Benipayo’s decision to resign “with regret.”

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“We would prefer not to discuss or speculate on the reasons behind his decision to quit as this is a matter between him and the appointing authority,” Bunye said in a statement.

During the oral arguments before the Supreme Court last March 7, Benipayo admitted that there may have been flaws in the implementation of Proclamation No. 1017. At one point, he accidentally mixed up the President’s proclamation with Proclamation no. 1081, the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos’ martial law declaration.

Gonzales said Benipayo’s inconsistent statements did not matter and blamed the media for blowing up the incident.

“Sometimes the media interprets the performance of government officials using its own yardstick, which is unfair,” he said.

Gonzales also disclosed that Benipayo intends to go back to private practice. Benipayo teaches Remedial Law at the Faculty of Civil Law.

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