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ISSUE: Whether or not the right to due process is available in the course of JBC proceedings in cases where an objection or opposition to an application is raised.
FACTS: Associate Justice Roberto Abad was about to retire and the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) announce an opening for application and recommendation for the said vacancy. Francis H. Jardeleza (Jardeleza), incumbent Solicitor General of the Republic was included in the list of candidates. Hence, he was interviewed. However, he received calls from some Justices that the Chief Justice herself – CJ Sereno, will be invoking unanimity rule against him. It is invoked because Jardeleza’s integrity is in question. During the meeting, Justice Carpio disclosed a confidential information which characterized Jardeleza’s integrity as dubious. Jardeleza answered that he would defend himself provided that due process would be observed. His request was denied and he was not included in the shortlist. Hence, Jardeleza filed for certiorari and mandamus with prayer for TRO to compel the JBC to include him in the list on the grounds that the JBC and CJ Sereno acted with grave abuse of discretion in excluding him, despite having garnered a sufficient number of votes to qualify for the position.
RATIO DECIDENDI: While it is true that the JBC proceedings are sui generis, it does not automatically denigrate an applicant’s entitlement to due process. The Court does not brush aside the unique and special nature of JBC proceedings. Notwithstanding being “a class of its own,” the right to be heard and to explain one’s self is availing. In cases where an objection to an applicant’s qualifications is raised, the observance of due process neither contradicts the fulfillment of the JBC’s duty to recommend. This holding is not an encroachment on its discretion in the nomination process. Actually, its adherence to the precepts of due process supports and enriches the exercise of its discretion. When an applicant, who vehemently denies the truth of the objections, is afforded the chance to protest, the JBC is presented with a clearer understanding of the situation it faces, thereby guarding the body from making an unsound and capricious assessment of information brought before it. The JBC is not expected to strictly apply the rules of evidence in its assessment of an objection against an applicant. Just the same, to hear the side of the person challenged complies with the dictates of fairness because the only test that an exercise of discretion must surmount is that of soundness. Consequently, the Court is compelled to rule that Jardeleza should have been included in the shortlist submitted to the President for the vacated position of Associate Justice Abad. This consequence arose from the violation by the JBC of its own rules of procedure and the basic tenets of due process. True, Jardeleza has no vested right to a nomination, but this does not prescind from the fact that the JBC failed to observe the minimum requirements of due process.