“We’re all just playing our own game. I don’t see it as a rivalry. We’re just trying to play our best.” Michelle Wie
By Alex P. Vidal
A knockout blow. This was how many Ilonggos described the bad luck that befell on Solicitor General Francis Jardeleza, who was eliminated from a short list of nominees for the next Supreme Court associate justice last June 30.
Fellow Ilonggos, however, were not satisfied with the way Jardeleza, a native of Jaro, Iloilo City, was ousted. They thought he was already secured up there in the tree when it was unceremoniously chopped off.
Jardeleza was reportedly one of the strong contenders for the SC position until his name was scratched out from the final five of the 13 nominees chosen by the Judicial Bar Council (JBC).
Only four of the normally five final nominees were left: Court of Appeals Associate Justices Apolinario Bruselas and Jose Reyes Jr., who received six votes each; and Commission on Audit Chair Grace Pulido-Tan and Quezon City Regional Trial Court Judge Reynaldo Daway, who got four votes. Jardeleza reportedly obtained the same votes.
Their names will be submitted to President Aquino for consideration.
As reported earlier, Jardeleza was knocked out from the race by no less than Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno, one of the six members of the JBC, who challenged his integrity as a nominee.
According to Supreme Court spokesperson Theodore Te, a nominee may be disqualified if his integrity is challenged and if a panel member invokes Rule 10, Section 2, of the JBC rules with a provision that states, “when the integrity of an applicant who is not otherwise disqualified for nomination is raised or challenged, the affirmative vote of all the members of the Council must be obtained for the favorable consideration of his nomination.”
Sereno reportedly invoked the powerful JBC rule against the Ilonggo jurist, an equivalent to a knockout punch in boxing.
However, there seems to be a loophole in Jardeleza’s abrupt exit from the race. He was reportedly not allowed to defend himself against Sereno’s accusations even after asking the higher court to defer the JBC’s voting last June 30 and bar the chief justice from taking part in the voting after she had denied him his right to due process.
The Philippine Daily Inquirer reported last July 1 that “before the vote, Jardeleza, a leading nominee, had appeared before the council to ask that it defer Monday’s voting so the full court could meet on it in Tuesday’s en banc session. After his appearance at the JBC, Jardeleza confirmed to reporters that the one who objected to his nomination was Sereno.”
Jardeleza is a true-blooded Ilonggo, who finished his elementary and secondary education in Iloilo City. He is no peanuts. In 1970 or two years before Martial Law, Jardeleza earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science from the University of the Philippines Visayas.
He earned his law degree at the University of the Philippines College of Law, where he graduated as salutatorian in 1974. In law school, Jardeleza was vice chairman of the Philippine Law Journal. He was admitted to the bar in 1974, after placing third in the bar examinations held that year. He obtained a Masters of Law degree from Harvard Law School in 1977.
Based on initial reports, it appears that Jardeleza and Sereno had a spat way back during their stints as professors of the University of the Philippines (UP) College of Law in Diliman, Quezon City.
The unresolved feud may have played a major role in Sereno’s decision against Jardeleza’s nomination. Was it a case of vendetta? A professional rivalry that developed into a personal grudge?
There could be more than meets the eye in Sereno’s lethal shot that toppled Jardeleza from the race for a position that could make him the fourth powerful man in the country once he becomes chief justice next by stroke of luck.
Whatever it is, it should not have spilled over during the JBC selection process where Jardeleza was at the mercy of panel members that included a former “adversary” in the law school.
Sereno may have other reason or reasons in impeaching Jardeleza’s integrity, and it may be buried deep in the JBC files unless Sereno is willing to talk about it in public. Since she has made it official to oppose Jardeleza, Sereno may be ready to back up her arsenal if push comes to shove, which most likely won’t happen now that Jardeleza’s nomination has become moot and academic.
The other JBC members are Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, Iloilo Rep. Niel Tupas Jr., Aurora Lagman, Jose Mejia and Ma. Milagros Fernan-Cayosa. Sereno, de Lima and Tupas are ex-officio members.