THE bid of Justice Secretary Leila de Lima to become the country’s top magistrate has suffered a major blow after the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) rejected her motion to dismiss outright the disbarment complaints filed against her in connection with her refusal to obey a valid order of the Supreme Court (SC) in connection with the case of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
IBP Spokesman Dennis Habawel said the board of governors denied de Lima’s motions to summarily dismiss the three cases referred to the group by the SC for “investigation, report and recommendation” in their meeting on Friday.
Habawel noted that the referral of the complaints by the SC to the IBP was made after the former found prima facie merit to warrant a full-blown investigation.
“The IBP shall proceed to ‘investigate’ in keeping with due process of law,” Habawel said.
He added that it is now up to the Judicial and Bar Council to consider whether the pendency of the disbarment cases against the justice secretary is a legal ground to disqualify her from being shortlisted for the appointment to the CJ post.
This developed as de Lima confirmed that her father passed away on Monday after a long battle against colon cancer.
Under Rule 4, Section 5 of the JBC Rules, aspirants with pending criminal or regular administrative cases are disqualified from being nominated for appointment to any judicial post or as Ombudsman or Deputy Ombudsman.
Also disqualified are those with pending criminal cases in foreign courts or tribunals; and 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 granted judicial clemency.
Incumbent judges, officials or personnel of the Judiciary who are facing administrative complaints under informal preliminary investigation (IPI) by the Office of the Court Administrator may likewise be disqualified from being nominated if it would be determined that the charges are serious or grave as to affect the fitness of the applicant for nomination.
Aside from graft charges, de Lima is also facing disbarment cases filed by two lawyers early this year for violation of the lawyers’ professional oaths when she publicly spoke against then-Chief Justice Renato Corona.
The disbarment complaints against de Lima were filed by lawyers Agustin Sundiam and Ricardo Rivera.
Sundiam asked the Court to take disciplinary action against her “utterances and remarks on national television which were bannered by all newspapers” in support of Mr. Aquino’s criticism of Corona during a criminal justice summit held in Manila on December 5 last year.
Rivera, on the other hand, filed the disbarment case for her alleged defiance of the SC’s temporary restraining order on a travel ban against Arroyo, who was then asking permission to leave the country to seek medical treatment for a degenerative bone condition.
During her public interview by the JBC on July 24, de Lima insisted that the disbarment complaints filed against her “have not ripened into an administrative proceedings” that would warrant her disqualification from the selection process for the next Chief Justice.
De Lima’s position contradicted the view of SC Associate Justice Diosdado Peralta, acting ex-officio chairman of the JBC, who pointed out during the public interview of de Lima that the Court unanimously approved the referral of the disbarment cases to the IBP for further investigation and recommendations in a resolution issued earlier.
Peralta said the referral was made after initial determination of probable cause to conduct further proceedings on the cases.
But the DOJ chief argued that there is nothing in the Court’s resolution that would indicate a finding of prima facie basis to push for disbarment proceedings against her.