The Leaderboard: Francis Jardeleza

The Leaderboard profiles the people behind the policies of the Asia-Pacific.Who is he?

Francis Jardeleza is the newest associate justice of the Philippines’ 15-member Supreme Court. Before President Benigno Aquino appointed him on August 19, Jardeleza had served as the Philippines’ solicitor general since 2012.

Jardeleza is a graduate of the University of the Philippines and Harvard Law School and former general counsel for San Miguel Corp., one of Southeast Asia’s largest food and packaging companies.

Why is he in the news?

Despite topping the short-list of candidates to fill retired justice Roberto Abad’s vacant seat, Jardeleza’s appointment was nearly derailed by Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno. The chief justice blocked his nomination, claiming Jardeleza lacked integrity because he had tried to remove several important sections of the memorandum laying out the Philippines arguments and evidence against China’s claims in the South China Sea to an arbitration tribunal in The Hague.

The 14-paragraph section in question discussed the status of Itu Aba, the largest feature in the disputed Spratly Islands. Itu Aba is claimed by Taiwan but could be key in a court’s ability to determine the status of nearby features. The sections were reinstated due to the last-minute intervention of Justice Secretary Leila de Lima with President Aquino.

What should we expect from him?

Chief Justice Sereno’s initial objection to Jardeleza may influence the dynamics of the court, but its decision to approve his nomination suggests Sereno’s may have been a minority view. Aquino has continued to be a staunch supporter of his appointee, citing Jardeleza’s stellar background and his work as solicitor general as proof of his integrity and capabilities.

The possibility of constitutional reforms being passed by the Supreme Court also seems more likely with Jardeleza on the bench. However, previous Aquino appointees, including Sereno herself, have shown that justices can maintain their independence regardless of who appointed them.

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