Palace: Tan, Jardeleza 'qualified' for SC post

MANILA, Philippines – It may be too early to say who among the current applicants for the impending vacancy in the Supreme Court would be favored to get the post, but two of them appear to have the backing of Malacañang at this early stage.

Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said both Solicitor General Francis Jardeleza and Commission on Audit chairperson Grace Pulido-Tan – two of 15 applicants, so far, for Supreme Court Justice – are "qualified"  to replace Associate Justice Roberto Abad, who will retire this coming May.

Lacierda made the statement in a news briefing on Friday, March 21, when asked if Malacañang supported the bid of administration officials Tan and Jardeleza. But he stressed that the final choice of nominees for SC justice would be left entirely to the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC).

"If you ask us, we’ve worked more directly with Solicitor [General] Francis Jardeleza because he’s the lawyer for the executive branch….He’s very qualified," he said.

Lacierda said that Jardeleza's record as a private practitioner and as Solicitor General and former Deputy Ombudsman "speaks for itself." He said the same could be said of Tan.

"With respect to Chairman Grace Tan, again, her record also speaks for itself. She has shown her competence in both the private and public sector," Lacierda said.

Prior to being named COA chief in April 2011, Tan, a certified public accountant and lawyer, served as Finance undersecretary and commissioner of the Presidential Commission on Good Government during the Arroyo administration, but left in 2005 to return to private practice.

PNoy will await JBC shortlist

Lacierda said, however, that the JBC will still screen the applications and later submit to President Benigno Aquino III a shortlist.

"We have never made an endorsement of any [applicant]….We will defer to the Judicial and Bar Council for now," he said.

Lacierda said the President "normally keeps a distance" from the process "until such time that the final list is submitted to him."

"At which point, as is his practice in judicial appointees to the Supreme Court or judicial nominees to the Supreme Court, he takes time to sit down with the nominees and interview them and assess and gauge those in the list," he said.

Other candidates vying for the post are 8 Court of Appeals justices, two Sandiganbayan justices, a regional trial court judge, the dean of the De La Salle University College of Law, and a COA commissioner.

The 8 CA Justices are Nina Antonio-Valenzuela, Apolinario Bruselas, Rosmari Carandang, Ramon Paul Hernando, Jose Reyes Jr, Noel Tijam, Andres Reyes Jr, and Stephen Cruz.

The other candidates are Sandiganbayan Associate Justices Maria Cristina Cornejo and Rafael Lagos; Reynaldo Daway, presiding judge at the Quezon City Regional Trial Court; De La Salle University Law Dean Jose Manuel Diokno; and COA Commissioner Ma Rowena Guanzon. –