Associate Justice Francis Jardeleza’s testimony could be vital to proving that Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno betrayed public trust by revealing sensitive information that could have weakened the Philippines’ arbitration case against China over the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).
This was bared by Lorenzo Gadon, the lawyer who filed the impeachment complaint against Sereno, to The Manila Times, citing a speech delivered by Jardeleza last year before lawyers in his native Iloilo City.
In the speech, Jardeleza accused Sereno of compromising national security by leaking a copy of a confidential memo from Foley Hoag, the New York law firm hired by the Philippine government for the arbitration case that Manila won last year.
The Foley Hoag memo recommended that the Philippines include the Itu Alba feature, located just outside the country’s exclusive economic zone, in the memorial it had filed before the arbitral tribunal in The Hague.
Jardeleza said he and other members of the government legal team opposed the recommendation as it could have compromised the country’s claim to Reed or Recto Bank, an oil and gas prospect.
Jardeleza pointed out that the memo was used against him by Sereno when he was nominated to the high tribunal in 2014.
“The charge against me centered on a memorandum relating to a judgment call made at the highest level of government. A copy of the confidential Foley Hoag memo was leaked to the Chief Justice,” Jardeleza said.
“At the time my nomination was being blocked, however, the arbitration case was still pending. While I knew the truth, I could not, as a professional, disclose intimate case details and matters of strategy as part of my defense.
In the one-sided proceedings before the JBC (Judicial and Bar Council), I was painted, by individuals who were not part of our arbitration team, as being disloyal to our country and thereby lacking the integrity to be a member of the Supreme Court,” he added.
Jardeleza said he chose to break his silence in his hometown, before Western Visayas lawyers, because it was in Iloilo “where the foundations of the integrity I have tried to embrace under a life in the law were first nurtured.”
On Monday, Josalee Deinla, one of Sereno’s lawyers, said there was no need for the chief justice to sign a waiver for her bank accounts.
Deinla said the standard form in the statement of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN) allows the Office of the Ombudsman and other bodies to examine Sereno’s disclosures.