Solicitor General Francis Jardeleza notched a majority vote from the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) but he still was disqualified on Monday from contesting a vacant seat in the Supreme Court (SC) at the behest of Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Aranal-Sereno.
“The JBC has indicated that while one nominee has garnered majority of the vote, the said nominee’s name cannot be included in the shortlist because of the invocation of Rule 10, Section 2, of the JBC rules,” the SC’s Public Information Office (PIO) said in a statement, referring to the Solicitor General.
“Majority vote” means at least four JBC members favored Jardeleza.
The rule can be raised on a whim by any JBC member—in this case, Sereno, head of the council—who would like to disqualify a candidate due to questions of integrity.
The JBC had proceeded with the voting on the shortlist for the post vacated by Associate Justice Roberto Abad, who retired in May, despite the pendency of a letter-petition filed by Jardeleza against Sereno at the High Court. The Solicitor General accused the Chief Justice of railroading his nomination.
Two Court of Appeals (CA) justices, one outsider and one Regional Trial Court (RTC) judge were shortlisted by the JBC.
Topping the list were CA Justices Jose Reyes and Apolinario Bruselas with six votes each.
Coming in second was Commission on Audit chief Maria Gracia Pulido-Tan with five votes and Quezon RTC Judge Reynaldo Daway, who got four votes.
Reyes and Bruselas are said to be known for their integrity and honesty in the appellate court.
They were examiners in the 2013 Bar examinations, Reyes in Legal Ethics and Bruselas in Remedial Law.
Pulido-Tan became controversial after exposing in a COA report the involvement of several senators in the pork barrel scam controversy. She is the reported candidate of Sereno.
For the first time, a judge from the RTC in the person of Daway made it to the shortlist.
Ready for battle
Jardeleza was in a fighting mood when he went to the SC on Monday to attend the JBC deliberations.
He told The Manila Times that he will not take the accusations of Sereno sitting down because the Chief Justice has been throwing mud at him to destroy his name and reputation.
During the hearing, Sereno raised accusations against Jardeleza, who asked her to put the allegations in writing so he can answer them under oath.
“I will give this my all. I know how to push back. I will push back. At this point in my life, I will not be bullied. Ngayon pa [Not now],” the Solicitor General said.
“Strong words I use, for no words can do justice to the anger I feel at the intemperate and inhumane attack made on my reputation. The attack strikes at the heart of my innermost being. I am therefore entitled to mince no words in my defense,” he added.
Jardeleza asked Sereno for a fair proceeding for the lone vacancy at the C.
“First, a process that requires the accuser to file her opposition in writing and under oath.
Why under solemn oath? To deter perjury, and to give the party wrongly accused legal remedies to restore reputation. Because talk is cheap, this process forces the accuser to walk the talk.
“Second, a process that gives the nominees a period of five days to answer. It is a bedrock principle of our constitutional system that an accused is given an opportunity to be heard, and a chance to prepare a meaningful defense.
“Third, a process that gives the nominee a right to cross-examine his accuser . . . [c]ross- examination will unmask bias, motive, self-interest, pettiness, personal grudge, instability and ill-will. Cross-examination will also unmask the outright lie and the willful falsehood.
“Fourth, a process which requires that the sworn statement in writing be made of the public record, and that the cross-examination be conducted in public. In other words, a process that is transparent,” Jardeleza said.