Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, who defied a Supreme Court temporary restraining order (TRO) against her directive barring former President and now Pampanga Representative Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo from seeking medical treatment abroad, was officially nominated Monday to replace ousted Chief Justice Corona.
In separate nomination papers submitted to the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC), Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC) and the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) chapter in Zambales province said De Lima exemplified the traits needed to head the Supreme Court.
De Lima said she was “humbled and honored” by the nomination.
“But, as I always say, I will defer to [President Benigno Aquino’s] wisdom. My father’s advice is [to] keep my options open and follow what the President wants,” De Lima said in a text message.
“I have yet to speak with the President,” she added.
In recommending De Lima, the IBP said the justice secretary “has the competence, professional qualifications and ethical standards to serve as Chief Justice.”
“Her elevation to the Supreme Court would likely contribute significantly to reshaping Philippine jurisprudence in a direction that would protect and strengthen the fundamental rights of the people,” the group said.
Dante Jimenez, VACC founding chairman, said De Lima “possesses the utmost competence, diligence, probity and independence to be able to dispense justice to everyone and to lead the judiciary to the new path.”
Jimenez said while De Lima was appointed by Arroyo as chair of the Commission on Human Rights, she did her job “in accordance with law and the truth, and by what is just and right.”
Last November, De Lima ignored the Supreme Court TRO on her travel ban against Arroyo even though the former President had not been charged with any crime.
The court, by an 8-5 vote, later upheld the TRO and asked De Lima why she should not be cited for contempt.
Asked what she was invoking in disregarding the court directive during a court hearing, De Lima said that the police power of the state granted her blanket authority to detain Arroyo because she feared Arroyo would flee to evade prosecution for corruption.
The Commission on Elections later rushed a case of election sabotage against Arroyo that led to her hospital arrest.
Aquino has vowed to prosecute Arroyo to fulfill an election campaign promise to eliminate corruption.
Describing De Lima as “a performer and proactive,” VACC said she proved that “justice, especially for victims of heinous crimes, is now within reach and no longer a dream.”
“Along this line, we victims and survivors of heinous crimes and corruption, believe that our nominee will likewise do the same as an independent-minded implementor of justice,” VACC said.
“Secretary De Lima is the most qualified and the right person to lead the Supreme Court and carry out the needed reforms in the judiciary at this point of history of our nation,” it added.
De Lima’s nomination poured in Monday despite having a pending disbarment complaint.
Last April, the Supreme Court referred to the Integrated Bar of the Philippines the disbarment case against De Lima and Presidential Spokesman Edwin Lacierda for fact finding investigation.
Private lawyer Agustin Sundiam asked the high court to take disciplinary action against De Lima and Lacierda for their utterances and remarks on national television where they called Chief Justice Corona a “lawless tyrant.”
Sundiam said the two secretaries violated their oath as lawyers requiring them to “observe and maintain the respect and dignity due to the courts of justice and judicial offers.”
Under the JBC Rules particularly Rule 4 Section 5, those disqualified from being nominated or appointed to any judicial, Ombudsman or deputy ombudsman position include: 1. those with pending criminal or regular administrative cases; 2. those with pending criminal cases in foreign courts or tribunals; 3, those who have been convicted in any criminal case or in an administrative case where the penalty imposed is at least a fine of more than P10,000 unless he has been grated judicial clemency.
But one of the IBP Zambales Board of Directors lawyer Josefina Bueno told reporters that the case against De Lima is simply meant to harass the Justice Secretary.
Before De Lima’s nomination, different groups and individuals had recommended the appointment of Solicitor General Francis Jardeleza, Internal Revenue Commissioner Kim Henares and prominent lawyer and women’s rights advocate Katrina Legarda as Corona’s successor.
Also nominated were former Ateneo de Manila University law school dean Cesar Villanueva, Inquirer columnist and former University of the Philippines’ College of Law dean Raul Pangalangan and former Laguna Assistant Provincial Prosecutor Marianito Sasondocillo.
The five most senior justices of the Supreme Court—acting Chief Justice Antonio Carpio and Associate Justices Presbitero Velasco Jr., Teresita Leonardo-de Castro, Arturo Brion and Diosdado Peralta —had also been automatically nominated for the post of Chief Justice. With Tetch Torres, INQUIRER.net