There was no malice in excluding then-Solicitor General Francis Jardeleza from a shortlist submitted by the Judicial and Barc Council to then-President Benigno Aquino III to fill a vacancy at the Supreme Court. AP Photo/Aaron Favila, File

Sereno camp says she acted in 'good faith' in excluding Jardeleza from JBC list
Audrey Morallo (philstar.com) - December 11, 2017 - 1:08pm

MANILA, Philippines — Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno acted "in good faith" in excluding then-Solicitor General Francis Jardeleza from a list of nominees for a vacant position at the Supreme Court, her spokespersons insisted on Monday, as the House justice committee continued its hearings to find probable cause in the impeachment case filed against the chief magistrate.

Jardeleza, now a justice of the SC, said that he wrote a petition before the high court upon learning that his name was not included on the list submitted to then-President Benigno Aquino III for his consideration.

Sereno raised an integrity issue against Jardeleza, whom the chief justice accused of treason following a position he took in the arbitration case by the Philippines against China over the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).

The integrity issue would require the Judicial and Bar Council, which is the body tasked to submit a list of nominees for positions in the courts to the president, to vote unanimously in order to include Jardeleza on the list. Since Sereno did not vote for Jardeleza, his name was dropped.

READ: Jardeleza sworn in as SC justice

Retired Justice Arturo Brion, who was also present at the hearing, agreed with Jardeleza's recall of the events and called Sereno's actions a "manipulation."

"Sereno could not hide her hand. She had to come out in the open and cited the integrity card," Brion said.

Sereno's spokespersons denied that the chief justice "manipulated" the list and stressed that Jardeleza's exclusion was because of his failure to obtain a unanimous number of votes under Section 2, Rule 10 of JBC-009.

"The Chief Justice, in invoking Section 2, Rule 10 of JBC-009, did not act with malice. She was merely performing her duty as a member of the JBC to register her good faith opposition to the nomination of then Solicitor General Jardeleza, after receiving and painstakingly verifying reports on his stand in the West Philippine Sea arbitration between the Philippines and China," Sereno's spokespersons said, adding that the reports gave the chief justice reasonable grounds to doubt the "integrity and moral fitness" of the then solicitor general to become an SC justice.

READ: Tijam: Transfer of Maute cases discussed over lunch, not en banc

They also said that Jardelza was given an opportunity to explain his side, which he refused because the former solicitor general held that he was entitled to a statement in writing of the charges against him.

"The JBC’s good faith observation of its own interpretation of the procedure laid down in Rule 4, Sections 1 and 2 and Rule 5, Sections 1 and 2 of JBC-009 with respect to Justice Jardeleza’s right to be heard, shows that there was no 'willful' or deliberate intention to violate Justice Jardeleza’s rights to due process," the spokespersons of the chief justice said.

Several justices and a former justice of the SC testified before the House justice panel on the supposed violation of the chief justice of the full court's rules.

The divisions among some of the country's justices burst into the open on Monday after Brion and Justices ?Jardeleza, Teresita Leonardo-De Castro and Noel Tijam slammed Sereno at a hearing of the justice committee.

They criticized the chief justice for her acts that led some to doubt the integrity of the court's en banc.

"During en banc sessions, we sometimes clash with each other," Brion said, offering a rare glimpse of the dynamics among the court's 15 members.

READ: At Sereno impeachment hearing, divisions among justices go on full display

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