MANILA, AUGUST 18, 2012 (PHILSTAR) By Delon Porcalla and Edu Punay - Justice Secretary Leila de Lima hinted yesterday she would no longer seek nomination in case of another vacancy at the Supreme Court (SC).

“If I have any other intentions of applying later? I don’t know. Probably no more, “she told a news briefing in Malacañang.

But De Lima said she could still work with the members of the JBC, despite what happened.

“To be part of the JBC, definitely. I will go back to the JBC. I will sit there as an ex-officio member because that is a constitutional mandate on my part,” she said.

De Lima had insinuated that the JBC had conspired with the SC and the Integrated Bar of the Philippines to foil her bid to become the next chief justice.

The JBC debunked De Lima’s claim, saying they only applied the rule in disqualifying her because of her two pending disbarment cases.

Meanwhile, if the SC justices were to choose their next head, it would be anyone among the insiders except Associate Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno.

An insider told The STAR that before the JBC came out with its shortlist, the eight SC justices who did not vie for the top SC post, voted on their choice among the 20 aspirants during a full court session last week.

The SC justices chose Acting Chief Justice Antonio Carpio and Associate Justices Associate Presbitero Velasco Jr., Teresita Leonardo-De Castro, Arturo Brion and Roberto Abad.

None of the eight magistrates, including Bienvenido Reyes and Estela Perlas-Bernabe, who were appointees of President Aquino voted for Sereno, the source said.

The source, a member of the high court, said he believes that the magistrates do not want Sereno to become chief justice due to her “lack of ascendancy.”

The source said the justices have high regard for the SC tradition of having the most senior justice appointed as chief justice.

However, the result of the voting was not submitted to the JBC because of the inclement weather last week.

Associate Justice Diosdado Peralta, who chaired the JBC in the deliberation for the chief justice post, only reflected the sentiment of SC justices in his vote. He did not vote for Sereno.

Under the rules, the JBC may consider the recommendation of the SC in coming up with a shortlist of candidates for a vacancy in the judiciary.

Of the five justices recommended by the high court, four – Carpio, De Castro, Brion and Abad – made it to the final shortlist. Sereno made it on the list after getting six votes from other JBC members.

Also in the JBC shortlist, which was submitted to the President, were former executive secretary and San Juan Rep. Ronaldo Zamora, Solicitor General Francis Jardeleza and former Ateneo law dean Cesar Villanueva.

When asked about her relationship with other justices during the oral interview, Sereno admitted “shouting” with fellow justices during some of the SC deliberations but said they would have a good laugh afterwards.

Sereno was also asked about her ascendancy over other SC justices and her dissenting opinion on a number of big cases.

She defended herself by citing former chief justice Claudio Teehankee, who earned the respect of his fellow magistrates despite his dissenting opinion in cases favoring Marcos, even though he was the latter’s appointee.

Sereno was Aquino’s first appointee to the high tribunal. She testified in the impeachment trial of former chief justice Renato Corona.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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