MANILA, Philippines - A magistrate of the Supreme Court has raised questions over the disqualification of Solicitor General Francis Jardeleza for the lone vacancy in the high court following objections raised by Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno in the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC).
Associate Justice Arturo Brion expressed reservations on the JBC’s application in Jardeleza’s case of the rule that requires unanimous votes from the seven-member council when a nominee’s integrity is questioned.
Brion disagreed with the majority ruling of the justices to dismiss the plea of Jardeleza for being moot and academic since the JBC already submitted the shortlist to the Palace earlier this month.
Instead of outright dismissal, Brion wanted the high court to give Jardeleza and Sereno five days each to file their respective comments before the justice would rule on the plea.
In his dissenting opinion, he said the council where Chief Justice Sereno – who raised the integrity question against Jardeleza – sits as ex-officio chair erred in disqualifying the solicitor general.
“If an objection comes from a council member and the objector’s positive vote is still required, then the rule is reduced to absurdity as it would mean that any member, by herself or himself, can already disqualify an applicant based on his or her objection. Is this intention of Rule 10, Section 2?” he pointed out.
Brion believed that the present administrative matter could not be rendered moot especially since it involves the court’s supervisory power over the JBC.
“Although the court’s supervisory powers do not allow us to intervene in the council’s authority to discharge its principal function... the court can supervise by ensuring the legality and correctness of [the council’s] exercise of their power as to means and manner, and interpreting for them the constitutional provisions, law and regulations affecting the means and manner of the exercise of their power as the Supreme Court is the final authority on the interpretation of these instruments,” he explained.
Brion pointed out that there was an allegation of grave abuse of discretion, which the high court should resolve.
Lastly, he said the portion of the decision penned by Associate Justice Marvic Leonen that the dismissal of the petition was without prejudice to any remedy that Jardeleza may still wish to pursue is “merely a consuelo de bobo.”
Jardeleza, one of 13 nominees for the post left vacant by the retirement of Associate Justice Roberto Abad last May 22, accused the SC chief of violating the rules by objecting to his nomination for supposed question of integrity even in the absence of formal opposition from any aggrieved party.
Jardeleza said he was informed that Sereno raised before the JBC 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.”
He then sought relief from the high court over alleged violation of his constitutional right to due process.
Apart from disallowing Sereno from sitting in the JBC voting, Jardeleza also urged the high tribunal to order the council to inform him in writing – in at least a five-day written notice – of the sworn specifications of the charges against him.
He also begged to be allowed to cross-examine his critic and supporting witnesses in public.