(The Philippine Star) - February 11, 2013 - 12:00am

First appointed by President Aquino as deputy Ombudsman for Luzon in July of 2011, topnotch corporate lawyer and formerly San Miguel Corp. counsel Francis H. Jardeleza now serves as Solicitor General of the country.

Jardeleza graduated from the UP College of Law and placed third in the 1974 bar exams. He completed his master of laws from Harvard University. Before joining SMC in 1997, Jardeleza was a former partner of the law firm ACCRA (Angara Abello Concepcion Regala & Cruz Law Offices) and the Roco, Buñag, Kapunan, Migallos & Jardeleza law office.

A report revealed the following: “In his interview before the JBC on May 19, 2011, when he was applying for Ombudsman, Jardeleza said he does not enjoy any political backing, nor does he belong to any political party. This, in his view, was the ‘strong reason’ why he should be considered for the post. One of his strengths, he said, is his being ‘proactive’ in litigation. ‘I can prepare cases thoroughly.”

SolGen Jardeleza, though always seemingly serious and media shy, was candid enough to answer the following questions for Spare Time.

Spare Time: You have always been known as a highly respected lawyer. What does it take to be a good lawyer?

FHJ: Preparation, preparation, preparation. This means knowing the facts and the law involved in the matter at hand. On the facts, it means reading and knowing about the attendant circumstances; on the law means research, and keeping up to date on developments in the law.

ST: Did you always dream of becoming a lawyer? If you are not a lawyer, what would you be?

FHJ: Yes. My father was a solo practitioner in Iloilo City who later had to take a government job. He always wanted me to become a lawyer and thus influenced me in my choice of career. If I’m not a practicing lawyer, I would want to be a full time law professor. But if not a professor of law, still a teacher, perhaps in political science and government.

ST: How were you as a law professor?

FHJ: I am strict but fair. I am a stern taskmaster, but I do not insult. I try to shame my students into studying more.

ST: What is a typical weekend for you? Do you/did you engage in any sport? Any hobbies, things you collect?

FHJ: A typical weekend would be spent catching up on sleep, having a fine meal with the family. I am not into any sports. I usually spend my leisure time reading.

ST: What was your reaction when you were offered the top OSG post? What was the state of things at OSG when you came in?

FHJ: I was very flattered and I accepted because it meant I would be able to be the head of an agency myself. I spent the longest time of my career as general counsel of a conglomerate, and it is rare for a lawyer to get to be CEO. So being SG meant being like a CEO. When I came in, my predecessor had laid in place the foundations for many improvements, most of which I followed through.

ST: What reforms did you institute at OSG? What is your directive as far as handling annulment cases? What other plans do you have for OSG?

FHJ: My priorities now in OSG are recruitment and capacity building. On recruitment, I have gone directly to the top law schools to recruit. As of date, we have a target to recruit 25 from those who have already taken the bar. So far, we have hired 16 and still looking to hire nine more. I have signed up the valedictorian from UE, three from the top ten of UST and a lead editor of the Ateneo Law Journal.

Of the law students who are in their senior year now, we also have a target to recruit 25. Competition for the top law graduates is tough, but I intend to compete head-to-head with the top law firms. I have done careers talks in San Beda and UP and will do one in Ateneo next week.

Under my watch, we have already recruited three bar top-notchers from the 2011 bar exams. On capacity building, I am on an aggressive program to build capacity for the OSG lawyers, in areas of law such as the law of the sea, international arbitration, public international law, WTO law, and all other areas where we need to enhance the capability of our lawyers to perform.

ST: Do you see the need for a divorce law? They say annulment is too expensive and unaffordable to the masses?

FHJ: On annulment, our policy is to adhere to the guidelines set by the Supreme Court. Since these cases are decided based on differing facts, it is not possible to lay down a hard-and-fast rule. My take is that a “no-appeals” policy is not acceptable in the same way that an “appeal all cases” policy is also unacceptable.

I would to decline to state an opinion on the necessity of a divorce law as this is a matter best left for the Congress to decide.

ST: What do you consider your greatest achievement in life?

FHJ: I consider the following to be my greatest achievements: having raised a good family and having led a very fulfilling career in the private sector. I am also very proud to have been given this opportunity, as Solicitor General, to “give back” to my country.

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