IBP dims De Lima’s bid, takes up disbarment caseBy Christine O. Avendaño, Michael Lim Ubac
Philippine Daily Inquirer
She may be Malacañang’s anointed one, but a complaint that she bad-mouthed a sitting Chief Justice may be her undoing.
The Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) on Monday night dismissed Justice Secretary Leila de Lima’s petition to set aside a disbarment case against her, raising the possibility of her disqualification from the screening process of the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) for ousted Chief Justice Renato Corona’s successor.
IBP spokesperson Trixie Reyes-Angeles announced that the IBP board of governors in a special meeting had “resolved to deny” De Lima’s petition to summarily dismiss the disbarment case against her without a formal investigation.
“The board directed the investigating commissioner to proceed with the formal investigation of the disbarment case in accordance with the rules of the disbarment and resolve them with dispatch,” Angeles said.
The JBC has interviewed 20 nominees for the next Chief Justice and is set to submit a short list of three candidates from which President Benigno Aquino is to select Corona’s replacement.
Among those interviewed was De Lima. However, a JBC rule provides that a nominee facing criminal or administrative proceedings would have to be disqualified.
De Lima, who called Corona a “lawless tyrant” in a nationally televised interview when the then Chief Justice was facing removal, was not immediately available for comment.
Two other disbarment cases have been filed against the justice secretary for her defiance of the temporary restraining order by the Supreme Court that allowed former President and now Pampanga Representative Gloria Macapagal Arroyo to leave the country for medical treatment last year.
Earlier on Monday, Malacañang expressed hopes that that De Lima would be included in the JBC’s short list of candidates.
It was unclear whether it was a slip of the tongue or a deliberate attempt by presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda to convey Mr. Aquino’s position concerning De Lima.
Lacierda did underscore the competence of De Lima as head of the Department of Justice to gun for the highest post in the judiciary.
“We’re very happy with her being our secretary of justice. We’re very comfortable with her. Either way, we would certainly welcome her—as Chief Justice, or as the DOJ (secretary). But, again, that’s up to the JBC,” he told a news briefing in Malacañang.
A news release later issued by the Presidential News Desk, left no room for doubt. It quoted Lacierda as saying that the Aquino administration “would welcome De Lima’s appointment as the next Chief Justice as she had the confidence of the Chief Executive.”
Lacierda supported De Lima’s appeal to the JBC not to exclude her from the short list of three candidates for the next Chief Justice solely on the basis of a pending disbarment case against her.
He said the justice secretary has every right to appeal the decision, after De Lima sent the JBC a seven-page letter last week detailing why she should not be automatically disqualified.
“She believes strongly that her disbarment case is politically motivated, hence it is her right to (do so) … that she not be disqualified immediately from selection,” Lacierda said.
He said Malacañang “will leave it to the JBC to determine in its discretion the validity and weight” of De Lima’s letter asserting that the referral by the Supreme Court to the IBP of the complaint by a private lawyer against her for criticizing Corona when he was facing impeachment did not mean an administrative case was in progress.
“She is just laying out the basis why this disbarment case should not be considered by the JBC considering that they were filed in the light of her opposition to the removed Chief Justice Corona,” Lacierda said.
De Lima said she was carrying out an official function as an alter ego of the President when she slammed Corona.