NEWLY appointed Supreme Court Associate Justice Francis Jardeleza should show delicadeza (good taste) by inhibiting himself from the cases he handled for the government and the family of President Benigno Aquino 3rd, including petitions concerning Hacienda Luisita and San Miguel Corp. (SMC), some groups said on Thursday.
In separate interviews with The Manila Times, Vicente Joyas, president of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP); and Renato Reyes Jr., secretary general of Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan), said Jardeleza should recuse himself from all cases that he handled before he was appointed as associate justice of the Supreme Court.
Both the IBP and Bayan questioned the legality of the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) at the High Court. Jardeleza, as solicitor general, defended the disbursement program.
“To avoid doubts on his appointment, my unsolicited advice to Justice Jardeleza is that he should inhibit from the DAP case and other cases he handled for the government and the family of president Aquino,” Joyas told The Times in a phone interview.
“If he does not inhibit, it will only agitate and enrage the people and bolster suspicion that he has a mission at the SC, thus raising doubts on his appointment,” the IBP head stressed.
Reyes, meanwhile, said the new SC justice should not participate in proceedings involving his previous cases.
“Jardeleza should inhibit from the DAP and all cases where he represented the government. Delicadeza dictates that he inhibit. We shouldn’t even ask him that,” he added.
According to the Bayan leader, the former solicitor general should also stay away from the petitions against the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) and those that he handled for the President’s family.
“He should also inhibit from EDCA, the petitions involving Hacienda Luisita and other petitions involving San Miguel Corp.,” Reyes pointed out.
In 1996, Jardeleza became Senior Vice President and General Counsel of San Miguel Corp., a position he held until June 2010, when he opted for early retirement. As General Counsel, he broadened his practice by specializing in mergers and acquisitions, corporate restructuring, securities, intellectual property and corporate governance.
On the other hand, Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said the Office of Solicitor General (OSG) will continue to represent the government.
“The government will continue to be represented by its legislated counsel, the Office of the Solicitor General. The OSG has senior Assistant Solicitors who are mandated by law to continue representing the government in the DAP case,” the Palace official told The Times in a text message.
On the Solicitor General’s appointment, Joyas said, Jardeleza passed through the required legal processes and that it was done in accordance with the law.
“It was done in order. The SC said he should be included in the shortlist and from that his name was submitted by the JBC [Judicial and Bar Council]. Let’s respect the decision of the SC and the JBC,” he added.
“It’s the prerogative of the President. Let history judge him if he had committed a mistake in appointing Jardeleza, who should be guided by his conscience and the people. Let’s give them the benefit of the doubt,” Joyas said.
On Wednesday, Aquino picked Jardeleza as replacement for retired Associate Justice Roberto Abad. The announcement was a “buzzer beater” as it came on the last day of the constitutional deadline for the President to appoint a new justice to fill up a vacancy at the court.
Palace spokesman Edwin Lacierda said Jardeleza was the President’s choice for being “the right person for the job.”
“Whether the Supreme Court accepted the petition [for mandamus]or ruled the petition one way or the other, there would have been an appointment by today. It just so happens that the President felt that the right person for the job is Solicitor General Francis Jardeleza,” Lacierda told reporters.
Critics questioned the timing of Jardeleza’s appointment.
“It seems Jardeleza’s appointment is still in line with Aquino’s war with the SC in the aftermath of the DAP ruling.
We fear for the implications of his appointment in the pending DAP petition now that there is a pending government MR [motion for reconsideration],” Bayan’s Reyes said in reaction to the Palace announcement.
Political analyst Ramon Casiple, in a text message, said it was obvious that Jardeleza was Aquino’s first and only choice from the start because his appointment was done after he was cleared for inclusion in the JBC shortlist.
“He has specific instructions on the President’s wishes. He is expected to argue for the Palace position,” Casiple added.
House Deputy Minority Leaders Neri Colmenares of Bayan Muna and Rodito Albano of Isabela agreed that Jardeleza should stay away from the cases he once handled.
The government’s Motion for Reconsideration on the DAP is pending at the SC.
“As one of the DAP petitioners, I would say Associate Justice Jardeleza should not vote on the decision on the MR on the DAP. The dice is rolled against the petitioner when a new presidential appointee who defended the President will decide on the MR,” Colmenares, a lawyer, said in a news conference.
But for lawmaker and lawyer Terry Ridon of Kabataan party-list, Jardaleza’s appointment smacks of power play.
“Solicitor General Jardaleza’s 11th hour appointment is power play at its peak. President Aquino has unabashedly delayed the appointment of a new Supreme Court justice right until his government’s lawyer was included in the JBC shortlist. How can we expect Justice Jardeleza to exercise judicial independence when he practically owes this political appointment to his client, the President?” Ridon pointed out.
“Even if Jardeleza inhibits in the pending cases where he has direct involvement, the Solicitor General’s presence in the Supreme Court is akin to putting a spy inside the Supreme Court, a loyal infiltrator who will continue to report to his client and patron. It’s a truly despicable act, which reveals the President’s desperation to undermine his self-proclaimed archenemy,” the lawmaker said.
With LLANESCA T. PANTI