THE chief lawyer for the Philippine government seems to have raised the bar in his undeclared war against the country’s top magistrate.
Solicitor General Francis Jardeleza on Wednesday asked the Supreme Court (SC) in a letter to disqualify Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Aranal-Sereno from final deliberations of the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC).
The Manila Times in a report this week exposed a “scheme” being employed by Sereno to oust Jardeleza by “weakening” the Solicitor General’s chances to land the Associate Justice seat vacated by Roberto Abad, who retired last month.
The alleged plot intends to squeeze in Commission on Audit (COA) Chairman Grace Pulido-Tan, who is supposedly favored by Sereno, as Abad’s successor.
The Times report revealed that Jardeleza had been asked by the Chief Justice to appear at an executive session with the JBC on June 30 when supposedly delicate matters are to be discussed.
A source said Sereno’s move was part of her “scheme” to humiliate Jardeleza because June 30 happens to be the date for deliberations on who would take Abad’s seat.
In his nine-page letter to the SC en banc, Jardeleza asked the high tribunal to order the JBC to recuse Sereno from participating in the voting on Monday on the shortlist of candidates for the vacant Associate Justice post.
“With all due respect to Chief Justice Sereno, her foregoing acts and omissions violate my right to due process of law, violate the council’s own rules and are in grave abuse of discretion,” Jardeleza said.
Sereno heads the JBC.
Jardeleza said he was informed that Sereno raised questions on his integrity twice “without informing me of the nature and cause of the accusations against me and without giving me an opportunity to be heard.”
In so doing, Sereno acted not as head of JBC but as his “prosecutor and judge.”
Jardeleza argued that Sereno violated a rule requiring the JBC to act only on allegations against nominees that are supported by evidence.
“The rule does not grant a member of the council peremptory powers to deny an applicant a nomination, in the absence of evidence [earlier]brought to the attention of, and validated by, the council in the public and transparent process prescribed in its rules,” he pointed out.
Jardeleza said only the High Court that would be able to save him from the hands of Sereno by intervening in the selection process and exercising its “constitutional power and duty of supervision” over the JBC.
“Unless the Honorable Court intervenes and exercises its constitutional power and duty of supervision over the council, I am in grave danger of being disqualified from the running without having been afforded due process of law,” he added.
Jardeleza wanted to know the charges filed against him at the JBC by informing him in writing within at least five days and allow him to cross-examine his oppositors and supporting witnesses in public.
“I have built a life in the law based on integrity. My parents sacrificed a lot to send me to the University of the Philippines College of Law. I owe it to them to preserve my integrity . . . I also owe it to them to clear my name. I thus beg all of you to afford me due process to clear my name,” he said.
The Times source said also part of Sereno’s scheme in ousting Jardeleza was her writing a one-page letter to the 13 Associate Justices of the high tribunal and stating there that there will no longer be any voting to be conducted among the candidates for the position of Associate Justice.
Sereno cited a supposed request of “several justices” to do away with the voting.
The source said no such request was made.
Jardeleza is one of the 13 nominees for the vacant SC seat.
The 12 other candidates are Pulido-Tan; Court of Appeals Presiding Justice Andres Reyes Jr. and Associate Justices Apolinario Bruselas Jr., Ramon Paul Hernando, Stephen Cruz, Noel Tijam, Rosmari Carandang, Jose Reyes Jr. and Nina Antonio-Valenzuela; Sandiganbayan Associate Justice Ma. Cristina Cornejo; Quezon City Regional Trial Court Judge Reynaldo Daway; and COA Commissioner Ma. Rowena Guanzon.