PRESIDENT Benigno Aquino III has appointed Solicitor-General Francis Jardeleza as associate justice of the Supreme Court.
Aquino signed Jardeleza’s appointment paper on Aug. 19, the same day that the Supreme Court decided to include his name in its shortlist of candidates.
Presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda said the date of Jardeleza’s papers was immaterial since the 90-day period for Aquino to make a new appointment lapsed yesterday.
“Whether the Supreme Court accepted the petition or ruled the petition one way or the other, there would have been an appointment by today (Wednesday),” Lacierda said.
“It just so happens that the President felt that the right person for the job is Solicitor General Francis Jardeleza,” Lacierda added.
The 64-year-old Jardeleza, who will have six years to serve, replaces Associate Justice Roberto Abad who retired in May.
His name was earlier removed from the shortlist drawn up by the Judicial and Bar Council following opposition from Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno.
Malacañang, however, petitioned the Supreme Court to include Jardeleza’s name.
Jardeleza took his oath Wednesday evening before Sereneo. The two were cordial to each other before the ceremony.
Associate Justices Teresita Leonardo-De Castro and Mariano del Castillo joined Sereno in welcoming Jardeleza.
In a statement read by SC spokesman Theodore Te, the justices said: “We look forward to his active, meaningful and immediate participation in the work of the Court – bringing justice to our people through its decisions and making the courts more responsive to our people’s needs through meaningful reforms.”
“The members of the court are pleased that it is now a full court, and that no vacancy in it has been allowed to remain longer that necessary. The Court faces many challenges and much work remains to be done by all of us,” they added.
Before being appointed by Aquino as solicitor general in February 2012, Jardeleza served deputy ombudsman for Luzon.
He graduated with honors from the University of the Philippines College of Law in 1974 and placed third in the bar exams that year.
Bagong Alyansang Makabayan secretary general Renato Reyes Jr. accused Aquino of “short-circuiting” the JBC process.
“He went out of his way to ensure Jardeleza got appointed. He allowed Jardeleza to question the JBC shortlist and in fact, supported Jardeleza’s inclusion in the shortlist. Aquino may have set a precedent for future SC appointees are there is now a way to virtually bypass the JBC so that a President can have his way,” Reyes said.
Reyes said Jardeleza’s appointment may be related to the pending motion for reconsideration of the Palace seeking to overturn the Supreme Court’s ruling on the Disbursement Acceleration Program.
“In appointing Jardeleza, Aquino used the Supreme Court to out-muscle the JBC -- exposing a right within the High Court which the President will find useful during the deliberations of the DAP motion for reconsideration,” Reyes added.
Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said she was hopeful that Jardeleza’s appointment would not affect the dynamics of the Supreme Court, despite the objections posed by Sereno, who questioned his integrity.
“He’s very qualified, certainly he is competent,” she said, adding that he was hardworking and professional.
Lawyer Harry Roque, who serves as counsel for several petitions pending before the Supreme Court, including the case assailing the constitutionality of Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), said Jardeleza should inhibit himself when the Court deliberates on cases that he handled when he was still the solicitor general.
“He (Jardeleza) will just have to recuse himself from theses cases,” Roque said in a text message.
But in his Twitter account, Roque said: “I’m a recent fan of Chief Justice Sereno. But ruling against her on Jardeleza undermines her leadership: Sereno losing in a Sereno Court. But she’s great!”
Sereno, who concurrently chairs the JBC, blocked Jardeleza’s inclusion in the shortlist of nominees to replace Abad and raised the “integrity issue” against Jardeleza by invoking Section 2, Rule 10 of the Judicial and Bar Council which requires a unanimous vote of the JBC members before nominees with integrity questions can be shortlisted.
Jardeleza argued that he was not given due process because he was unable to air his side regarding Sereno’s opposition.
Sereno, along with Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio who also opposed Jardeleza’s nomination, did not take part in Tuesday’s voting in which the Court en banc agreed to grant Jardeleza’s petition that his name be included in the shortlist of aspirants for the SC seat.
Carpio was also against Jardeleza’s inclusion in the shortlist due to the latter’s position on the country’s claim on areas in the South China Sea.
De Lima said that while she was happy about Jardeleza’s appointment, she was also sad to seem him leave the Justice Department, which has supervision over the Office of the Solicitor General.
Commission on Audit chairwoman Grace Pulido Tan, who was also on the shortlist of candidates, said she was not disappointed that she was not picked for the post.
Senate President Franklin Drilon said he saw nothing wrong with the manner in which Jardeleza’s name was included in the shortlist or that Sereno had objected to his inclusion. The appointment, he added, was the President’s prerogative.
De Lima on Wednesday refused to say if the “integrity issue” raised against Jardeleza was related to the arbitration case filed by the Philippines against China over the West Philippine Sea.
Reports said Jardeleza committed a “grave mistake” when he ordered the government’s international lawyers to exclude Itu Aba from the 4,000-page Memorial submitted to the five-member arbitral tribunal in the Hague in March.
On March 19, a few weeks before the Philippines submitted its Memorial to The Hague, the international lawyers namely wrote Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario to inform him that removing the Taiwan-occupied island from the claim could damage the case.
“In the strongest possible terms,” the international lawyers advised the Philippines not to exclude Itu Aba from the Memorial.
In the Memorial, Itu Aba was classified as a “rock” entitled under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos).
Del Rosario and the Philippine legal team discussed this with President Aquino. In the end, Mr. Aquino ordered the restoration of the removed paragraphs. With Sara Susanne D. Fabunan
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