There is no doubt that President Benigno Aquino (PNoy) has been at odds with the Supreme Court (SC) ever since the latter showed a seemingly adversarial stunt when it ruled against some of the pertinent provisions of his pet Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) – a program that is supposed to speed-up public spending and boost economic growth.
This so riled up PNoy that he has been making waves about amending the constitution not only for economic and political reasons, but also to clip what otherwise looks like an overreach power of the SC.
What even made the relationship between the Executive and the Judiciary branches of government incongruous and dismaying to PNoy is the fact that the latter’s own appointee to the SC’s highest post, Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, not only spearheaded in ruling against the DAP, but, recently, also the very one that led at the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) in contesting the inclusion of Solicitor General Francis H. Jardeleza to the list of nominees for the lone vacancy in the SC due to alleged integrity issue. One will note that PNoy has been pushing hard for the inclusion of Jardeleza in the shortlist of nominees for the position vacated by retired Associate Justice Roberto Abad.
The integrity issue apparently arose when Jardeleza, being the chief government counsel in the country’s territorial dispute with China, directed the Philippines’ international lawyers in The Hague to delete 14 paragraphs discussing Taiwan-occupied island of Itu Aba, the biggest island in the Spratlys, from the memorial submitted to the UN on March 30.
This directive, however, was argued upon by the international lawyers as being detrimental as it would significantly weaken the country’s territorial dispute with China in the South China Sea. PNoy concurred with this view and has since ordered the deletions restored.
Taiwan is said to be building a “$100-million port next to an airstrip” on Itu Aba and so, even if it is excluded in our claim, but if China ever takes over Taiwan, which it considers as a renegade province, then we haven’t solved the problem in dispute at all.
Having established that, the question now is: That does disqualify Jardeleza from becoming a member of the SC?
In fact Jardeleza proved himself more competent for the position when, as an aspirant/petitioner, he asked the SC to stop Malacañang from appointing a new SC justice pending the resolution of his petition seeking to compel the JBC to include his name in the shortlist of nominees.
Jardeleza said the JBC violated his rights to due process when accusations against his integrity were made by Sereno without informing him of its nature and basis.
The JBC dropped Jardeleza from its shortlist of nominees for the lone vacancy in the SC despite his managing to get the required number of votes from the panel.
“The filing of charges against petitioner and allowance of reasonable opportunity for him to answer said charges constitute the minimum requirements of due process. Petitioner was left with the monumental task of divining the accusations against him, an undertaking made even more difficult by the fact that the identities of his accusers were unknown. Given how little information he had. Petitioner could not have been able to mount a meaningful defense,” Jardeleza said.
Jardeleza claimed Sereno “gravely abused” her position when she acted as prosecutor, witness, and judge in his case.
That was enough for Sereno to concede.
Jardeleza got the nod.
Jardeleza’s appointment paper was signed by PNoy, the same day the SC granted Jardeleza’s petition to be included in the shortlist of candidates for the vacant post.
The rest is history.
Jardeleza, 65, will serve on the SC for five years. The mandatory retirement age in the judiciary is 70.
Talking about PNoy getting the better of SC!