Sereno asks SC more time to respond on show cause order

MANILA The camp of former Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno on Friday filed a motion asking the Supreme Court (SC) to give her more time to respond on the show cause order in connection with the SC ruling on the quo warranto petition against her.

Lawyer Josalee Deinla, one of Sereno's spokespersons, said they had asked the SC to give them 15 more days, or until June 9, to respond to the show cause order.

In its May 11 ruling, the High Court directed Sereno to show cause within 10 days from receipt of notice why she should not be sanctioned for violating the Code of Professional Responsibility and the Code of Judicial Conduct for transgressing the sub judice rule and for casting aspersions and ill motives to the members of the Supreme Court.

When this petition for quo warranto was filed, respondent (Sereno) continuously refuses to recognize this Court's (SC's) jurisdiction. Instead of participating in the process and answering the charges against her truthfully to assist in the expeditious resolution of the matter, respondent opted to proceed to a nationwide campaign, conducting speeches and accepting interviews, discussing the merits of the case and making comments thereon to vilify the members of the Congress, cast aspersions on the impartiality of the members of the Court, degrade the faith of the people to the Judiciary, and falsely impute ill motives against the government that it is orchestrating the charges against her, stated the 153-page decision, penned by Associate Justice Noel Tijam.

It is well-nigh unthinkable for respondent to profess deprivation of due process when she herself chose to litigate her case before the media, it added.

The SC stressed the bar on parties discussing their case in public as it explained that this rule, the sub judice, is even applied to lawyers and judges since it is mandated by the Code of Professional Responsibility and the Code of Judicial Conduct.

The SC said Sereno's behavior of disdain and contempt towards some High Court justices, whom she dubbed as the Biased 5 originally, and later Biased 6, can no longer be tolerated.

"She may be held liable for disbarment for violating the Canons of Professional Responsibility for violating the sub judice rule by repeatedly discussing the merits of the quo warranto petition in different fora and for casting aspersions and ill motives to the members of the Court even before a decision is made, designed to affect the results of the Court's collegial vote and influence public opinion. This wrongful actuation exemplify a poor regard for the judicial system and may amount to conduct unbecoming of a Justice and a lawyer, it reads.

"Once and for all, it should be stated that this is not a fight for democracy nor for judicial independence. This is an undertaking of the Court's duty, as it is called for by the Republic, to judicially determine and settle the uncertainty in the qualification, or otherwise, of respondent to sit on the highest position in the Judiciary, it added.

When "aggressive actions" are taken against the Judiciary as an institution and "clouds of doubt" cast upon the people's faith in the administration of justice, the SC said it must deal with it head on, especially if coming from a lawyer.

The SC voted 8-6 to grant the quo warranto petition that sought to void Sereno's 2012 appointment as chief justice, when she failed to submit her Statements of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth (SALN) before the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC), which set the requirement for applicants.

The JBC is the one tasked to screen applicants seeking positions within the judiciary, including the seat of chief justice.

The Court held that Sereno's appointment as the 24th chief justice the first female appointed to such post was null and void.

The 57-year-old Sereno is the first Chief Justice to be removed through a quo warranto petition and should have stayed for 12 more years or until 2030 if the quo warranto petition had been rejected.

Appointed in 2012 by former president Benigno Aquino III, Sereno replaced the late former Chief Justice Renato Corona, who was ousted through impeachment in December 2011.

Sereno earlier insisted that the SC has no jurisdiction to hear and resolve the quo warranto petition, saying she can only be removed through impeachment proceedings with the Senate sitting as the impeachment court.

Sereno is also facing an impeachment complaint filed by lawyer Larry Gadon on four grounds corruption, culpable violation of the Constitution, betrayal of public trust, and other high crimes.

The complaint contains 27 acts of alleged offenses by the Chief Justice.

Sereno was charged in an impeachment complaint at the House of Representatives because of her failure to indicate her entire PHP30-million fee in the arbitration proceedings against the Philippine International Air Terminals Co., Inc. (Piatco) as government counsel in her SALN.

The complaint also said Sereno committed corruption when she, among other things, used public funds to finance her "extravagant and lavish lifestyle" by ordering the purchase of a brand-new luxurious Toyota Land Cruiser 2017 model as her personal vehicle, amounting to more than PHP5 million; and stay in opulent hotels when attending conferences in the country and abroad. (PNA)

Source: Philippine News Agency