JBC: SolGen given due process in SC nomination

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Wednesday, August 13, 2014

THE Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) urged the Supreme Court (SC) to junk Solicitor General Francis Jardeleza's petition seeking to include him in the shortlist of nominees for the next associate justice of the Supreme Court (SC).

The government's top lawyer had said he was deliberately excluded from the list and that he was deprived of due process because Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno did not inform him of the nature and cause of integrity issues against him.

Neither was he given the opportunity to be heard.

But the JBC refuted this in a 22-page comment to Jardeleza's petition, saying he was informed by JBC member retired Court of Appeals (CA) Justice Aurora Lagman on June 16 and 17 that Sereno will block his nomination based on the way how he handled a "very important specific case" for the state.

Before they cast their votes for the shortlist, the JBC asked Jardeleza in its meeting on June 30 to shed light on the allegations.

However, the solicitor general came out with a statement requesting from the JBC sworn statements so that he would know the accusations against him. He also asked the body to give him adequate time to prepare for his defense and cross-examine his accusers in public.

"Petitioner (Jardeleza) probably overlooked that the JBC is not a fact-finding body. Neither is it a court, nor a quasi-judicial body. The members were not concerned with determining petitioner's guilt or innocence or the quantum of evidence against him, which task is within the ambit of the jurisdiction of courts," the comment stated.

Holding a hearing on accusations against Jardeleza is also optional, the JBC said, since there are "other ways" of determining the truth or the falsity of the allegations or oppositions. This is to avoid undue delay in the selection process, considering the strict time frame within which to fill a vacancy.

Sereno invoked Section 2, Rule 10 of the JBC Internal Rules to block his nomination on the issue of integrity.

While Jardeleza got four votes, along with Quezon City Judge Reynaldo Daway, his name was not submitted to the Office of the President because he failed to muster the affirmative vote of all members to be included in the shortlist, the JBC said.

"Even then, petitioner needed an affirmative vote of the five remaining members. He only got four affirmative votes. As a result, the petitioner was not included in the shortlist," the screening body chaired by Sereno said.

"For applicant Judge Daway, although he also got four affirmative votes, he was included in the shortlist because his integrity was not challenged. Rule 10, Section 2 was never invoked against him."

The JBC also found it improper for the solicitor general to sue them and Malacañang, which eventually sided with his cause.

"In fact, he is or his office is required to represent respondents against a suit that he initiated himself," the body said, citing attorney-client relationship.

Jardeleza has asked the SC to stop President Benigno Aquino III from naming on or before August 20 the replacement of Associate Justice Roberto Abad, who retired on May 22, because his constitutional power to appoint was allegedly impaired by the JBC's decision to recommend only four instead of five nominees.

In response, the Palace said Jardeleza must be included in the shortlist, believing that he was denied due process. It also asked the Court to declare Section 2, Rule 10 unconstitutional.

Jardeleza was given by the justices until Friday to reply to the comments submitted by Malacañang and the JBC. (Sunnex)

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