Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno did everything she can to block the inclusion of former Solicitor General Francis Jardeleza in the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) shortlist of nominees for the lone vacancy in the Supreme Court, even going beyond the ambit of her judicial province in her bid to sway the other justices into supporting her stand, according to Associate Justice Arturo Brion.
Brion accused Sereno of manipulating the JBC processes to exclude Jardeleza as she launched a purposive campaign “to discredit and deal him a mortal blow at the JBC level and remove him as a contender at the presidential level of the appointing process.”
The magistrate said the High Court should not stand idly by when irregularities of this nature happen, particularly when the irregularity was committed by one of its own members.
“If indeed she had an awareness of the sensitivity of the matters brought up to the level of the JBC, she should have taken measures and safeguards to ensure their confidentiality, or, must have at least consulted with the offices concerned on how best to handle possible national interest concerns,” Brion pointed out.
“The court should not likewise stay mute when a presidential power, granted under the Constitution that the court safeguards, is at risk of being diminished,” he said.
Last Wednesday, President Benigno Aquino 3rd appointed Jardeleza, 64, as the new SC associate justice, taking over the post vacated by retired Associate Justice Roberto Abad.
The Palace announced the appointment after the SC en banc ordered the JBC to include Jardeleza in the shortlist of nominees.
Based on a statement of facts, Sereno delayed the raffle of the case of the letter-petition of Jardeleza filed on June 25 in order to allow the JBC to come up with a shortlist of nominees on June 30.
Jardeleza used three stories of The Manila Times to show that Sereno “railroaded” the JBC nomination.
First, by clipping the SC justices of their power to vote and recommend to the JBC the shortlist of her choice and followed by her refusal to raffle off the case immediately.
Brion even cited The Manila Times stories in the separate opinion.
Aside from Sereno, another member of the court, Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, reportedly opposed Jardeleza’s nomination. Carpio and Jardeleza were classmates at the University of the Philippines College of Law.
The new SC justice placed 3rd in the 1974 Bar examinations while Carpio landed 6th in the 1975 edition. Carpio, on the other hand, graduated one year late after being involved in a fraternity war.
It was earlier revealed that Sereno dislikes Jardeleza due to a rivalry that dates to their days at the UP College of Law.
To be sure, according to Brion, to be called disloyal to one’s country is no laughing matter that one can easily brush aside and forget.
He pointed out that the approach makes one wonder what the terms “integrity” and “reputation” mean to the respondents, and if they realize that libel is penalized because reputation and integrity are precious treasures that people value.
Brion pointed out that the court should particularly be careful in its actions, “especially when these actions may possibly entail risk for the national interests of the country.”
“Ironically, as events in this case unfolded, she even initiated the full exposition in the Supplemental Comment of matters that may possibly involve national interest risks” he said.
According to Brion, the JBC violated Jardeleza’s right to due process and that the council dishonored its own rules when the Solicitor General was not given the opportunity to be heard on June 30, 2014.
The JBC is a novel creation under the 1987 Constitution, which replaced the confirmation process that members of the judiciary previously had to undergo after appointment.
The 1987 Constitution gave the JBC the task of selecting and submitting a shortlist of nominees (composed of at least three men and/or women of proven competence, independence, probity and integrity) from where the President can choose the judge or justice that he will appoint.