Jardeleza's SC petition presents 'conflict of interest'
MANILA, Philippines – The Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) believes Solicitor General Francis Jardeleza's bid to be included in the list of nominees for the position of Supreme Court (SC) Associate Justice presents a conflict of interest.
In its comment to Jardeleza's petition submitted to the SC Tuesday, August 12, the JBC said an attorney-client relationship exists between Jardeleza and the people he sued over his exclusion from the JBC-shortlisted candidates for the vacated SC post of retired Asscociate Justice Roberto Abad.
As Solicitor General, Jardeleza is "the principal law officer and legal defender of the Government."
"By suing the very parties he is tasked by law to defend, petitioner knowingly put himself in a situation where his personal interests collide against his public duties," the JBC's comment further read.
The government's lawyer sued Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, the JBC, and Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr before the SC, wanting his nomination recognized and his name submitted to President Benigno Aquino III for possible appointment.
The council argued that Jardeleza's duty to defend the government as Solicitor General demands "undivided fidelity."
"An attorney owes loyalty to his client not only in the case in which he has represented him but also after the relation of attorney and client has terminated and must avoid the appearance of treachery and double dealing, since the relation of attorney and client is one of confidence and trust in the highest degree," the comment read further.
While he garnered a majority vote of 4-2 from the JBC, Jardeleza was excluded in the shortist due to integrity issues raised by Sereno.
Sereno invoked a JBC rule against Jardeleza – Section 2, Rule 10 of JBC-009 – that demanded a unanimous council vote for the nomination of a candidate whose integrity is being challlenged.
Jardeleza failed to get the votes of everyone in the council, prompting the JBC to submit their recommendation to Aquino without Jardeleza's name.
Aquino has full executive power to appoint for the vacancy in the SC, and the Palace had already expressed its support for Jardeleza in the issue. (READ: Palace to SC: Include Jardeleza as Supreme Court nominee)
In its comment before the SC, the JBC said Jardeleza's petition is defective.
The council argued that Jardeleza cannot ask for the SC to stop Aquino from naming a new justice while his name has yet to be included in the nominees.
The council said "one's inclusion in the list is within the JBC's discretion" and is not a right inherent to a mere applicant.
"He is merely an applicant for the position of Associate Justice of the Supreme Court. Neither does he have a clear legal right to the position applied for nor a clear legal right to compel the JBC to include him in the shortlist," the comment read.
Prior to the JBC deliberations, Jardeleza had already asked the SC to order Sereno to inhibit from the voting. (READ: SC nominee asks Chief Justice to inhibit from voting)
He said a conflict of interest exists, as Sereno will become his judge and accuser.
This time, the same allegation of conflict of interest is hurled against him by the JBC.
Right to due process
The JBC also said Jardeleza's right to due process was not violated, as the JBC is not a trial court bound by the rules of rendering sound judgment over an accused.
"The JBC, as a collegial body, does not render judgment; it does not rule on the truth or falsity of the opposition or the guilt to innocence of an applicant. In these circumstances, therefore, does the JBC have to comply with the strict requirements of notice and hearing mandated in judicial proceedings, and convert the background check and verification process as if it were a trial?"
A petition for certiorari cannot be applied as well, said the JBC, as the council is not a judicial or quasi-judicial body.
The JBC likewise argued that the President's constitutional duty to appoint for the vacancy within the prescribed time period supercedes any such TRO to be issued.
The council cited Section 4(1), Article VIII (Judicial Department) of the 1987 Constitution and said Aquino has until August 20 to issue an appointment.
"It is legally inconceivable for a mandatory constitutional duty of the President to appoint within 90-days a replacement for the vacancy in the Supreme Court to be held in abeyance by a temporary restraining order," the JBC said in its comment.
This is Jardeleza's 3rd attempt to join the 15-member High Court. (READ: For 3rd time, SolGen tries to join SC) – Rappler.com