Jardeleza won't start work yet at SC

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Friday, August 22, 2014

NEWLY appointed Associate Justice Francis Jardeleza is on a two-week leave from the Supreme Court (SC) that began Friday to wind up things at his previous post as top government lawyer.

In an email, SC spokesperson Theodore Te said it was Jardeleza's request to Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno during his oath taking on Wednesday evening.

"The Chief Justice has agreed to the request," Te said.

President Benigno Aquino III has yet to pick Jardeleza's replacement at the Office of the Solicitor General, where the new justice served for more than two years.

Jardeleza defended the government's position in some controversial cases such as the constitutionality of the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), Reproductive Health (RH) law and Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), where Aquino lost via a unanimous vote that triggered shaky relations between him and the SC.

What nearly cost Jardeleza the chance to become the high tribunal's 15th and final member however was his decision not to pursue the Philippines' sovereignty over Itu Aba, the largest island in the disputed Spratlys which is also being claimed by Taiwan.

While Aquino restored the 14-paragraph discussion on Itu Aba in its arbitration case against China before a United Nations body last March, this did not stop Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno and Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio from trying to derail the former solicitor general's ascent to the SC.

For Sereno, Jardeleza's integrity was already tarnished by the Itu Aba issue, making him unfit to be included in the shortlist of nominees from which Aquino had to choose the successor of retired Associate Justice Roberto Abad.

In a television interview on Friday, Iloilo Representative Niel Tupas Jr. confirmed news reports that Sereno blocked Jardeleza's nomination because of the former solicitor general's handling of the territorial claim.

However, Tupas said his fellow members in the screening body Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) had no consensus whether Jardeleza's action can be considered a blot in one's integrity or mere difference in legal strategy.

"For me, integrity issues would only cover allegations such as bribery and graft and corruption," said Tupas, one of the four JBC members who voted for Jardeleza's inclusion in the shortlist.

Still, Sereno invoked Rule 10, Section 2 of the JBC rules, which effectively gave her the power to veto Jardeleza's nomination due to his integrity issue.

Jardeleza, who cried lack of due process, turned to the SC for help, which then ordered his inclusion in the list of nominees on Tuesday.

The President signed his appointment papers on the same day.

Jardeleza will serve in the SC until he reaches the mandatory retirement age of 70 in 2019. (Sunnex)

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