“There is a higher court than courts of justice and that is the court of conscience. It supercedes all other courts.” Mahatma Gandhi
By Alex P. Vidal
A checkmate. And a big slap on the face of Supreme Court Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno!
That’s how many fellow Ilonggos viewed the sudden turn of events in the nomination of Atty. Francis H. Jardeleza for the position of Supreme Court associate justice.
You don’t put a good man down. So goes the popular dictum for victims of slanderous attacks.
Only hours after Jardeleza won his battle in the Supreme Court when the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) disqualified him for the position of Supreme Court associate justice, President Benigno S. Aquino III pulled a rabbit in his hat by appointing Jardeleza, 64, to the position vacated by Associate Justice Roberto Abad, who retired last May 22.
Jardeleza’s appointment came a week after Malacanang ordered the JBC to reinstate his nomination after being ousted on opposition of Sereno, one of the six JBC members, who challenged his integrity as a nominee during JBC’s last voting on June 30.
Many observers believed Sereno’s opposition was more of an act of personal vengeance.
She and Jardeleza, both former professors in the University of the Philippines-Diliman College of Law, reportedly had a past spat.
As JBC chair, Sereno probably found the golden chance to bamboozle the top-notch jurist from Jaro, Iloilo City.
But Jardeleza’s redemption came on August 19.
The Supreme Court, voting 7-4, elected to grant Jardeleza’s petition for certiori and mandamus against the JBC, Sereno, the JBC chair and Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa.
The petition sought to put on hold Mr. Aquino’s selection of the 15th high court justice until Jardeleza is on the short list.
The JBC earlier disqualified Jardeleza after Sereno invoked Rule 10, Section 2, of the JBC rules with a provision that “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.”
We repeatedly described Sereno’s tactic as “an equivalent to a knockout punch in boxing” in our two previous articles.
Sereno was apparently hell-bent to block Jardeleza’s entry in the higher court as manifested by her strong stand when she doubted the Ilonggo jurist’s integrity.
When everything seemed hopeless after Jardeleza’s disqualification, President Aquino halted the guessing game.
It became apparent that Jardeleza was the apple of the president’s eyes.
In the end, the king outsmarted the queen. President Aquino castled on the side of the outstanding Ilonggo aspirant, leaving Jardeleza’s tormentor-turned-chamber boss Sereno counting the stars!
Fighting on wobbly legs in the opening game, Jardeleza was rescued by President Aquino in the middle game in a “queen’s gambit” attack.
The brilliant Iloilo lawyer checkmated Sereno in the end game.
On the day the report came out that Jardeleza was against removed from the shortlist of the final four nominees, President Aquino released Jardeleza’s appointment, to wit:
“Pursuant to the provisions of existing laws, you are hereby appointed ASSOCIATE JUSTICE of the SUPREME COURT (vice Hon. Roberto A. Abad). By virtue hereof, you may qualify or enter upon the performance of the duties of the office, furnishing this Office and the Civil Service Commission with copies of your oath of office.”
Mr. Aquino signed the document August 19, 2014.
Jardeleza was deputy ombudsman for Luzon before Mr. Aquino appointed him solicitor general last February 2012.
Jardeleza’s appointment to the Supreme Court is a poetic justice.
It also served as the biggest embarrassment on the part of Sereno, who will now share the same chamber with the man she never wanted to be an officemate.