MANILA, Philippines (1st UPDATE) - Justice Secretary Leila de Lima's hopes of being the next Chief Justice have become next to nil, unless the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) makes an unprecedented decision of violating its own rules.
The Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) Board of Governors has junked de Lima's motion to dismiss the disbarment cases she is facing, IBP spokesperson lawyer Dennis Habawel said Monday.
He said the IBP Board of Governors made the decision Friday to follow the Supreme Court's referral for the organization to investigate, report, and issue recommendations on the complaints against the justice secretary.
The Supreme Court has already found prima facie merit to justify a full investigation into the disbarment complaints, Habawel said.
"The IBP shall proceed to 'investigate' in keeping with due process of law," he added.
The JBC will now have to decide whether to disqualify de Lima from the chief justice position because of the disbarment cases she is facing.
Under Rule 4, Section 5 of the JBC rules, those with pending criminal or regular administrative cases are disqualified from "appointment to any judicial post or as Ombudsman or Deputy Ombudsman."
In a complaint by Atty. Agustin Sundiam, De Lima is accused of violating lawyers' professional oath when she spoke out in public against then Chief Justice Renato Corona.
A separate disbarment case involves de Lima's alleged refusal to obey a valid Supreme Court temporary restraining order on a travel ban against former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
De Lima, during her JBC interview on July 24, claimed that the disbarment complaints filed against her have yet to become "administrative proceedings" that will result in her automatic disqualification from the chief justice selection process.
However, Associate Justice Disodado Peralta, who is sitting as ex-officio chairman of the JBC, opposed de Lima's stand, explaining that the high court has unanimously approved her disbarment cases to the IBP.
Peralta said the Supreme Court already found probable cause to merit a full investigation into the complaints.
A Malacañang official said Monday the Palace will not intervene on behalf of de Lima.
Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said they will leave it to the JBC in deciding whether to include de Lima in its chief justice shortlist.
He sai de Lima views her disbarment cases as political in nature. - with a report from Jorge Cariño, ABS-CBN News