JBC member to Jardeleza: Why go to SC?

Carmela Fonbuena
'I thought that he would ventilate his arguments first before the Judicial and Bar Council,' says Iloilo Representative Niel Tupas Jr

LAST RESORT. The Solicitor General wants the Supreme Court to rule against its chief. File photo by Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – It’s the wrong venue.

This was the reaction of Iloilo Representative Niel Tupas Jr to Solicitor General Francis Jardeleza’s petititon before the Supreme Court questioning his exclusion from a shortlist of nominees to the vacant position in the Supreme Court (SC).

Tupas, who represents Congress in the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) which vets nominees to the Philippine judiciary, said he regrets that Jardeleza did not make it to the shortlist of SC nominees that the council submitted to President Benigno Aquino III. He said he voted for the solicitor general. (READ: SolGen asks SC to stop Aquino from picking next justice

But Tupas said Jardeleza should not have gone to the High Court to complain.

“I thought that he would ventilate his arguments first before the JBC. But instead of arguing it before the JBC, he went straight to the SC. I do not agree with that move by the Solicitor General,” Tupas told Rappler in a phone interview. 

“You have to argue it with the JBC first. He was given the opportunity. I do not agree with him in this case…. Most of the members would have wanted to listen to the arguments of the Solicitor General. We wanted to listen but he refused to argue and went straight to the SC,” Tupas added.

Unprecedented

Jardeleza was perceived to be the choice of President Aquino in the race for the post vacated by retired SC Associate Justice Roberto Abad.

In an unprecedented move, however, Jardeleza on June 25 asked the High Court to order Chief Justice Ma Lourdes Sereno, who heads the JBC, to inhibit herself from voting on the shortlist. He cited her alleged bias against him.

The JBC proceeded with the voting on June 30, with Sereno invoking her veto powers under Section 2, Rule 10 of the JBC rules – blocking him from the shortlist.

When asked by the JBC to explain, Jardeleza refused. He told reporters that he stressed to the JBC that if any council member had questions about his integrity he or she should put them in writing. (READ: SolGen out of SC race)

The council eventually submitted 4 names – excluding Jardeleza – of SC nominees to the President, who is not allowed to appoint a justice from outside this list.

Jardeleza fought back.

West Philippine Sea

On Friday, July 18, he filed a petition demanding the Court to include him in the shortlist, to stop the President from appointing a new SC justice, and to declare Sereno’s actions to veto him as grave abuse of discretion amounting to “lack or excess of jurisdiction.”

 

Tupas said he did not agree with the Chief Justice’s move to veto Jardeleza but couldn’t do anything because of the veto powers of JBC members. 

“My vote speaks for itself. I voted for the Solicitor General. He is highly qualified for the position. To me, the points raised don’t really rise to the level of the issue of integrity that the JBC rules speak of. I voted for him but since it is a rule of the JBC, I followed the rule,” Tupas said. 

Tupas did not elaborate.

Rappler learned that SC Senior Justice Antonio Carpio appeared before the JBC to testify against Jardeleza about his apparent questionable stand in the country’s arbitration case against China over the West Philippines Sea (South China Sea).

A source privy to the JBC discussions told Rappler that Jardeleza’s integrity was questioned because he reportedly moved to exclude “portions” of the country’s arguments against China from the final document that the Philippine government submitted to the arbitration court in March. – Rappler.com