BY AMADO P. MACASAET
‘Little does De Lima know that she is effectively suggesting that President Aquino should continue fighting for her. I do not think he will.’
AS the song goes, the party’s over and it’s time to call it a day.
For Justice Secretary Leila De Lima, that means her ambition to become Chief Justice.
Secretary De Lima knows that the Judicial and Bar Council has has submitted to the President the names of eight candidates who garnered the minimum votes of five from the 8-member council. Acting Chief Justice Antonio T. Carpio was given 7 votes, and Mrs. De Lima was not one of them.
As a matter of fact, the JBC disqualified her in spite of the pressure exerted by the lawyers of President Aquino to “insert” her name by a process she herself should abhor.
The JBC stood pat on its policy to disqualify any aspirant facing administrative charges.
Thus the selection process has ended.
The Justice Secretary knows that only too well. But she could not stop blaming what she described as a conspiracy by the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, the Supreme Court and the JBC to disqualify her.
She sings the old tune of charging the SC with bias for dismissing the disbarment cases against two other aspirants who happen to be members of the High Tribunal – Acting Chief Justice Antonio T. Carpio and Associate Justice Maria Lourdes P. Sereno.
Mrs. De Lima claims that SC acted with dispatch to dismiss the disbarment cases against the two justices while her motion to the JBC to summarily drop her own case went under investigation instead.
How many times must we say that the members of the Supreme Court may be removed from office only by impeachment? Charging any of them with disbarment is intended to have their license to practice law withdrawn.
Without a license, the accused are automatically removed from office. But impeachment is the process of removing any of them. The “conspiracy” against De Lima is the fact that she is not a justice of the Supreme Court, but a Secretary of Justice, who may be investigated for disbarment on the complaint of anybody at any time.
Whatever De Lima says now about the nomination process has no value at all. The processed has been observed.
Little does De Lima know that she is effectively suggesting that President Aquino should continue fighting for her. I do not think he will. He has, like a man, accepted the decision of the JBC.
De Lima does not seem to appreciate the lengths that President Aquino went to for her. The final result is embarrassing the President since his efforts to use pressure failed.
De Lima should apologize to the President because he went out of his way to qualify her. She does not seem to have a mind to. On the contrary, she might be putting the name of the President on the spot in the sense that her persistence may be interpreted by many as authorized by the President.
I would not suspect it is. On the contrary, President Aquino has accepted the reality that although he was embarrassed, he made democracy work by trying – although failing – to bend the JBC in favor of De Lima.
The JBC denied him. That is a clear manifestation of independence and a lesson for the President not to use his awesome powers where the Constitution is involved.
Mrs. De Lima should likewise remember that three men, including Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa, lobbied in the IBP to investigate her. That means they did not want the JBC to qualify her.
This particular point indicates that the President and his men cannot get their act together. He was disobeyed.
The situation got so confused after Senator Escudero, true to his opposition to De Lima, declared that the JBC need not meet to disqualify the secretary of justice. He said the body has always rejected a nominee who is facing charges.
The signals got mixed up. Senator Escudero had dinner with the President on Monday, Aug. 6. He wanted to tell him not to interfere with De Lima’s problems.
But Escudero is said to have left Malacañang convinced by the President that he would work for the inclusion of De Lima. That’s how far the President went for his secretary of justice.
Yet the JBC rejected her.
The rejection was a dark chapter not on the career of De Lima but on the reputation and character of President Aquino. Why should De Lima continue blaming the Supreme Court and the JBC for not including her as a nominee?
If the President has accepted the reality that the JBC and the IBP are unbendable when they feel that what they are doing is duty that sits with law, why can’t the likes of Leila de Lima have the virtue of humility to move on?
She is not helping the President. Cabinet members have the duty to protect the dignity of the Office of the President. Mr. Aquino must be saved from the embarrassment he got trying to have De Lima as Chief Justice.
The President must likewise be admired for the humility of accepting defeat.
It is a trait not in the person of Mrs. De Lima. The other way of looking at it is the President had the “good fortune” of being rebuffed. I cannot imagine how Mrs. De Lima would behave if she had been appointed Chief Justice.
We have been blessed by her rejection. We have been blessed by the lesson that the President might learn from the experience of being rebuffed. He now knows that the powers of the President have limits.
Most of all, the unfortunate incidents have the positive effect of seeing the law working as it should in the case of the JBC and the IBP. It is mistakes that make a man more careful.