Calida: Sereno misled JBC in applying as SC justice

MANILA Solicitor General Jose Calida said Tuesday that Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno has misled the Judicial Bar and Council (JBC) regarding her application as Associate Justice in the Supreme Court in 2010.

In his 64-page reply to Sereno's comment on his quo warranto petition, Calida asked the high court to nullify Sereno's appointment to the judiciary's top post due to her failure to meet the 10-year requirement for submission of Statements of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth (SALN) set by the JBC.

According to Calida, Sereno committed gross misrepresentation before the JBC when she explained that the reason for her non-submission of SALNs was that she could no longer retrieve all her SALNs.

Sereno's repeated failure to file her SALNs, and her dishonesty before the JBC are demonstrative of her obstinate refusal to comply with the law and accordingly, her utter lack of integrity," Calida said.

Truth, however, is that she failed to file her SALN 11 times from 1986 to 2006, he added. In any event, a perusal of Sereno's submitted SALNs further reveal that she did commit a litany of falsehoods.

Calida explained that Sereno's SALN for 1998 was filed only in 2003, or five years beyond the period required by law, while her 2009 SALN was also belatedly filed on June 22, 2012, or three years late.

The 1998 SALN shows that she did not only file it late, she also belatedly accomplished it, Calida said. The 2009 SALN reflects that she was holding the position of Associate Justice of the Supreme Court, when in fact, she was only appointed on Aug. 16, 2010."

When Sereno resigned in June 2006 as a UP (University of the Philippines) professor, she should have submitted a SALN as of 2006. Her 2006 SALN, however, [which] bears no stamp receipt from UP, was only signed on July 27, 2010, the same day that she submitted it to the JBC and [it] was not notarized, Calida said.

It appears that she fabricated her 2006 SALN in an attempt to submit a SALN to the JBC during her application for Associate Justice in 2010, he added.

The top government counsel described these acts as perjurious which, according to him, proves the Chief Justice's utter lack of integrity.

The quo warranto petition emanated from a letter filed by suspended lawyer Eligio Mallari, urging Calida to initiate a proceeding against the top magistrate.

Under Rule 66 of the Rules of Court, a quo warranto proceeding is an action by the government against a person who unlawfully holds a public office or holds a position where he or she is not qualified.

Calida insisted that a quo warranto proceeding is a "proper remedy to question the validity of Sereno's appointment."

Sereno has earlier asked the SC to dismiss the OSG's petition on technical grounds, particularly for lack of jurisdiction and violation of the one-year prescription period for the filing of such petitions.

She argued that the SC has no jurisdiction and authority to remove her from office because the 1987 Constitution provides that she could only be ousted by impeachment in Congress as she is an impeachable official.

Sereno camp clarifies JBC rule on SALNs

Meanwhile, the top magistrate's camp clarified the issue on the JBC's rule, which required all applicants for the position of chief justice in 2012 to submit all their previous SALNs.

In a statement, lawyer Josa Deinla, one of Sereno's spokespersons, made this clarification to correct the misconception that the JBC had imposed a 10-year SALN requirement, and after two Supreme Court justices made public their respective certifications from the JBC that they submitted at least 10 SALNs when they also applied for the top judicial post nearly six years ago.

We want to clarify that in 2012 the JBC did not merely require 10 years, but all previous SALNs up to 31 Dec. 2011 for those in government, Deinla said, citing a JBC announcement on the vacancy of the chief justice post in 2012 that was published in newspapers.

Deinla noted that it was Associate Justice Teresita Leonardo de Castro who first brought up the baseless 10-year SALN requirement in one of her many appearances before the House Committee on Justice, where she willingly testified in support of the fatally defective impeachment complaint filed by lawyer Lorenzo Gadon against Sereno.

With all due respect, the claim that the JBC required only 10 years of SALNs was Justice de Castro's self-serving assertion that is contradicted by the JBC's own announcement and its records, Deinla said.

Contrary to de Castro's claim, the 2012 JBC announcement stated that the candidates for chief justice, in addition to other requirements, must submit all previous SALNs (up to 31 Dec. 2011) for those in the government or SALN as of 31 Dec. 2011 from those from the private sector.

Deinla also clarified that the filing of SALNs by those in government was not only imposed by Republic Act No. 6713, or the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees.

SALNs were already required under RA 3019 (Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act), which was enacted as early as 17 Aug. 1960, she explained.

After the 1987 Constitution took effect, RA 6713 expanded the requirement to include in SALNs assets and liabilities of spouses and unmarried children of government officials. RA 6713 took effect on 25 March 1989, Deinla added.

In 2012, de Castro and then acting chief justice, Antonio Carpio, were also candidates to replace Chief Justice Renato Corona, who was removed from his post following his conviction by the Senate impeachment court. They both failed to meet the JBC requirement of all SALNs, along with Sereno and 11 other candidates.

Records show that de Castro has been in government service since 1973, thus under the JBC original requirement, she was bound to submit 39 SALNs. However, she could only submit 15 SALNs.

In the case of Carpio, he submitted to the JBC his SALNs when he was a member of the high court from ?2001-2012 but he could not complete his SALN submissions when he was Chief Presidential Legal Counsel from ?1992-1996. He could only submit to the JBC his SALNs for ?1992-1994.

As a result, the minutes of the July 20, 2012 JBC meeting stated that Carpio and de Castro were among those deemed to have substantially complied.

In Sereno's case, she submitted to the JBC her ?2009-2012 SALNs which she filed as SC Associate Justice. She resigned from UP in 2006 and went into private practice until her appointment to the high court in 2010.

With respect to her UP SALNs, Sereno told the JBC that since her records were more than 15 years old, it was not feasible for her to retrieve all the documents.

Considering that many of the candidates like Sereno, Carpio and de Castro could not comply, Deinla said the JBC waived the requirement of complete submission of previous SALNs by all applicants.

There is nothing irregular about the acceptance of the SALNs as substantial compliance even if the JBC originally required all previous SALNs, Deinla pointed out. The JBC could relax its requirement because the submission of SALNs is not a constitutional requirement but a requirement, which the council can waive.

Deinla also said that the fact that the JBC waived its requirement of the submission of all previous SALNs proves that there is no basis for the quo warranto petition against CJ Sereno.

Earlier, Senator Francis Escudero, who was a JBC member from 2008 to 2013, said the relaxed rule on SALN submission was not intended for Sereno.

According to Escudero, the rule on SALN was relaxed even before Sereno applied for the position of associate justice in 2010.

He recounted that the JBC had been discussing the situation of former Associate Justice Roberto Abad, who could not complete his SALN filings for his service with the Office of the Solicitor General, when it relaxed the SALN rule.

Source: Philippine News Agency