Associate Justice Francis Jardeleza on Monday, December 11 said that Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno violated his right to due process when she raised the integrity issue against him in 2014 during his nomination for Associate Justice before the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC).
During the resumption of the hearing on the impeachment complaint filed against the chief magistrate, Jardeleza gave his testimony before the House Committee on Justice on the issue of Sereno allegedly manipulating the shortlist of the JBC to exclude him.
Jardeleza, who was Solicitor General at the time, narrated that he was among the 15 nominees for Supreme Court associate justice to replace retiring Justice Roberto Abad in 2014.
After his public interview before the JBC members, Jardeleza said a series of articles published in the newspaper The Manila Times from June 18 to 20, 2014 prompted him to file a letter petition before the Supreme Court.
The articles had detailed Sereno’s alleged actions against the inclusion of Jardeleza in the JBC shortlist and tending to indicate that the chief magistrate appeared to be circumventing the JBC rules and allegedly scheming to block Jardeleza from prospectively taking the SC vacancy seat.
“These three articles cited multiple SC insider sources. And I stress that the chief justice did not publicly deny the veracity,” he said.
Jardeleza believed Sereno’s acts during the JBC meeting, as reported by these articles, “were in violation of my right to due process, a violation of the JBC’s own rules and were all made in what we lawyers call grave abuse of discretion.”
He also testified that former Court of Appeals Justice Aurora Lagman, who was also a member of the JBC, informed him that Sereno questioned his integrity during the JBC executive sessions on June 5 and June 16.
Lagman also told the former solicitor general that Sereno challenged his integrity based on his handling of the West Philippine Sea arbitration case.
In his letter petition to the SC, Jardeleza asked for four reliefs regarding the matter:
- Direct the JBC to provide a written notice of the sworn specifications of the charges against him together with the sworn statements of the witnesses and the supporting documents.
- Allow Jardeleza to cross-examine the witnesses in public
- Direct the JBC to reset the hearing on June 30.
- Direct the JBC to disallow Sereno from participating in the voting for the position vacated by Justice Abad.
Sereno asked him if he wanted to defend himself, Jardeleza said, when he met with the members of JBC on June 30.
“I replied that I will defend myself if she would give me the due process I prayed for in my letter petition. Since she did not grant me the reliefs I asked for, I asked that a statement I made on my rights be put on record,” he said.
Jardeleza pleaded with the JBC to defer its meetings because the court en banc was going to meet the next day, July 1 on the matter of the nominees: “I put on record that, considering the en banc meeting next day, I did not want to waive my rights.”
Jardeleza said that despite his plea with the JBC, the panel later released its four nominees on June 30, which excluded him.
Jardeleza said Associate Justice Arturo Brion told him that he received four out of six votes regarding the JBC shortlist, which was the same as the number of votes that a judge included in the nominees received.
The Supreme Court later ruled in his favor and included him again in the shortlist. He was later appointed associate justice by then President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III.
Also attending the hearing, Brion told lawmakers that he stood by his 2014 opinion on the issue, and submitted a copy to the House panel: “I think that to this day I am justified to make the conclusions I made then,” he said.
Brion in 2014 penned a separate concurring opinion regarding the Jarddeliza-Sereno row, saying that Sereno manipulated the JBC into excluding Jardeleza in the JBC shortlist for the vacant associate justice position.
Brion pointed out that Jardeleza has struggled with the “roadblocks” that Sereno has put up against him both at the JBC and the SC, both of which she headed.