Top government lawyer named SC justice

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Wednesday, August 20, 2014

MANILA (Updated) -- After three tries and a legal battle against the screening body that excluded him from the list of final nominees, Solicitor General Francis Jardeleza has finally realized his dream to become a member of the Supreme Court (SC).

Jardeleza's appointment was announced by Malacañang on Wednesday, the last of the 90-day period given to President Benigno Aquino III to name the replacement of retired Associate Justice Roberto Abad, who vacated his post on May 22.

Jardeleza, who took his oath before Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno on Wednesday night, beat Commission on Audit (COA) Chairperson Grace Pulido-Tan, Quezon City Judge Reynaldo Daway and Court of Appeals (CA) Justices Apolinario Bruselas Jr. and Jose Reyes Jr. for the post.

Undas 2013
Solicitor General Francis Jardeleza (Photo courtesy of the Solicitor General)

Jardaleza was initially not included in the shortlist prepared by the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) after Sereno opposed his inclusion due to an integrity issue.

But Jardaleza questioned JBC's decision before the SC on the ground of lack of due process, prompting the Office of the Executive Secretary to ask the high tribunal to include the solicitor general's name in the shortlist.

His petition was granted on Tuesday.

In a statement, the solicitor general thanked Aquino for his "trust and confidence."

"Rest assured, I will dispense my duties with competence, integrity, probity, and independence—always bearing in mind the interests of the Filipino people," he said.

The Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (Bayan) doubts these words.

Bayan secretary general Renato Reyes said the solicitor general owes Aquino "big time" as the president allegedly exerted "extra effort" to "delay" the appointment of a new SC justice until Jardeleza was included in the shortlist.
"It was Aquino who went against the JBC in obvious power play vs the SC. So Jardeleza's independence would naturally be questionable," he said.

With Jardeleza in the bench, the group said he might influence the rest of the 15-man tribunal to side with the government on pending controversial cases such as the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (Edca) and Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), whose key parts were declared unconstitutional via a unanimous vote.

“Jardeleza’s appointment will make an irreversible ripple in the high court’s judicial integrity. Remember that Jardeleza himself defended the government’s position in several critical cases, including the Cybercrime Law, the PDAF (Priority Development Assistance Fund) case, and even DAP and Edca, both of which are still pending before the High Court,” said Kabataan party-list Representative Terry Ridon.

And even if Jardeleza inhibits in the pending cases where he has direct involvement, his presence is "akin to putting a spy – a mole – inside the SC, a loyal infiltrator who will continue to report to his client and patron,” the lawmaker said.

“It’s a truly despicable act which reveals the President’s desperation to undermine his self-proclaimed archenemy, the Supreme Court,” Ridon said.

Jardaleza was named solicitor general in February 2012, just less than a year after he was appointed Deputy Ombudsman for Luzon in July 2011.

He graduated salutatorian/cum laude from the University of the Philippines College of Law in 1974, then moved on to place third in the bar exams the same year.

In 1977, he obtained his Masters of Law from the Harvard Law School.

He is also a former general counsel at diversifying conglomerate San Miguel Corporation, which was once under the control of the President's uncle Eduardo "Danding" Cojuangco Jr.

He specialized in mergers and acquisitions, corporate restructuring, securities, intellectual property and corporate governance while with San Miguel.

The solicitor general applied as chief justice in 2012 but he lost to Sereno.

He then vied for the position of SC associate justice later that year, which went to former UP Law dean Marvic Leonen, who was the government's top negotiator in the peace talks with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

Jardeleza is Aquino’s fifth appointee in the SC after Sereno and Associate Justices Bienvenido Reyes, Estela Perlas-Bernabe and Leonen. (with SDR/Sunnex)

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