A sitting justice of the Supreme Court (SC) like Associate Justice Francis Jardeleza can only be removed by impeachment.
This was the ruling of the SC en banc in a disbarment case filed against Jardeleza amid the filing of motion for reconsideration of the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) questioning the recent SC ruling that Jardeleza should be included in the short list that paved way for his appointment.
The 15-man tribunal junked the disbarment case lodged against Jardeleza, contending that he is now an “impeachable officer.”
A resolution dated August 26, 2014, signed and promulgated by lawyer Enriqueta Vidal, Clerk of Court of the SC en banc, dismissed the complaint filed by lawyer Reynaldo Cortes against Jardeleza when he was the then- Solicitor General.
The High Court argued that in view of the appointment of Jardeleza as justice of the SC, he is now considered an impeachable officer under the 1987 Constitution.
This means that Jardeleza can only be removed from office via impeachment proceedings.
Cortes filed the disbarment case, citing Jardeleza’s alleged violation of the Code of Professional Responsibility when he was still the Solicitor General.
His case supports Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno dropping Jardeleza from the shortlist of nominees when he was applying as Associate Justice of the SC.
Cortez filed an Opposition in Intervention in the SC by also questioning the integrity of Jardeleza as a lawyer.
Sereno and Associate Justice Antonio Carpio blocked the nomination of Jardeleza in connection with the “Itu Aba” property dispute in Taiwan and the Chief Justice even raised an “immorality” issue against Jardeleza.
According to an SC insider who talked to The Manila Times on condition of anonymity, this ruling of the High Court will be echoed in the motion for reconsideration filed by the JBC against Jardeleza.
The source said it was only Sereno who cannot accept that Jardeleza is now in the SC.
“The move to attack Jardeleza again is an exercise in futility… because everybody in the court knows that it will be moot and academic,” the SC source added.
With a vote of 7 against 4, the SC granted a petition of then Solicitor General Francis Jardeleza to be included in the shortlist of nominees for a vacant post in the tribunal.
The seven justices who granted the petition of Jardeleza believed that Sereno and the JBC deprived Jardeleza of his right to due process by excluding his name from the shortlist despite his garnering the required majority vote.