Retired Supreme Court Justice Florentino Feliciano is one of the most sought after lawyers because of his closeness with Chief Justice Lourdes Sereno, a magistrate of the High Court said on Monday.
Feliciano, who will be defending the Manila Electric Co. (Meralco) from groups that questioned the recent power rate increase, is the new kumpare of the Chief Justice after he stood as one of the godfathers in the wedding of Jose Lorenzo Sereno and Maria Clarissa Buenaventura last week.
According to a Supreme Court magistrate who talked with The Manila Times on condition of anonymity, Feliciano is the “most wanted” lawyer by multinational companies who have pending cases in the Court.
These companies are hoping that Feliciano could get a favorable ruling because of his closeness to Sereno, having mentored by the Chief Justice when they were working on the Piatco case.
In the website of the SyCip Salazar Hernandez & Gatmaitan law office, Feliciano is listed as a Senior Counsel.
“He was a partner [at Sycip]for nearly 25 years, where he served as Co-Managing Partner in 1981-1983 and Managing Partner in 1983 until 1986. He was counsel, negotiator and legal advisor to corporations engaged in pharmaceutical manufacturing and distribution; mining; petroleum refining and distribution; and banking, among others,” the source said.
Feliciano represented big realty and mining corporations.
He appeared before the high tribunal as counsel for Oceanagold mining firm on the issue of constitutionality of the mining law. He also represented Ayala Corp. in a land case before the Court.
The source pointed out that Sereno’s impartiality can be questioned because the one appearing before her is her former mentor, law partner and now kumpare.
“How can the people see impartiality when the Chief Justice herself refuses to inhibit even if her kumpare is appearing before her?” the magistrate said.
Sereno has refused to recuse herself from the Meralco case.
However, some senators believe that the connection between Sereno and Feliciano is not a reason for the former to inhibit herself from the Meralco case.
Senator Antonio Trillanes 4th said Sereno knows how to separate the personal from the professional and that she should be given the benefit of the doubt.
“Let’s give her a chance to prove that she will be objective as what we expected her to be,” he said.
Sen. Sonny Angara said there is a need to closely look into the circumstances of the relationship, although personal connection doesn’t automatically make the chief justice biased.
A lawyer himself, Angara pointed out that since the law profession is small, there is a big chance of encountering former colleagues but objectivity should always be maintained.
“Inhibition is voluntary and usually the justices will discuss it among themselves if they feel that there is impropriety,” Angara said.
Opposition Sen. Nancy Binay sees no need for the Chief Justice to distance herself from the case as long as Sereno is able to exercise impartiality in the handling of the Meralco case.