MANILA, July 2 (Mabuhay) – For Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, criticisms hurled against her by Associate Justice Francis Jardeleza during a speech at the University of the Philippines (UP) last Monday are not important enough to warrant a comment from her.
Sereno was referring to accusations made by Jardeleza that she and Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio were like “sharks and bullies” when they tried preventing his appointment to the high tribunal by raising immorality issues against him.
“If it’s not helpful to the country to make any comment, then I will not make a comment. And it is not [helpful],” Sereno told a specially arranged press conference to celebrate her 55th birthday.
In his speech during the commencement exercises for UP law graduates, Jardeleza recounted a story about hitting a “major road block” in his life that resulted in his supposed “near death experience” at the time he was trying to secure the SC post.
“The Chief Justice and the senior associate justice of the Supreme Court objected to my nomination, on grounds that I lacked integrity in my handling of the West Philippine Sea arbitration,” Jardeleza said. “It came as a complete surprise; I didn’t know what hit me.”
Jardeleza ended up still challenging his oppositors and took up the case before the SC, which, through a vote of 7-4 in August 2014, ordered the Judicial and Bar Council to include him in the shortlist despite the objections of Sereno and Carpio.
Sereno and Carpio did not take part in the SC voting.
Jardeleza eventually clinched the SC post later that month.
SC Public Information Office chief and spokesman Thedoore Te, a day after Jardeleza’s speech, had already said in a briefing that there was “no indication” that Sereno or Carpio would respond to Jardeleza’s tirade.
Sereno and Carpio both opposed Jardeleza’s nomination to the SC for his alleged unfavorable position on the Philippine claim over the West Philippine Sea. Jardeleza was solicitor general at the time, representing the Philippines in its territorial claim over parts of the South Chiina Sea.
Sereno’s objection concerned Jardeleza—as chief government lawyer—ordering the deletion of key parts of the Philippine memorandum or memorial that was to be submitted to a United Nations-backed arbitral tribunal in the Hague, particularly the portion on the Itu Aba.
Taiwan-controlled Itu Aba is the largest island in the contested Spratly Islands.
In his speech, Jardeleza said even if he wanted to, he could not defend himself over Sereno and Carpio’s accusations as he was bound by the lawyer-client secrecy, and could not discuss in public aspects of the territorial dispute case.
Jardeleza likened his journey to the SC to a basic NAVY seal training of swimming in shark-infested areas. He said when a shark circles your position, stand your ground and don’t swim away. (MNS)