An insider told The STAR that the justices decided in session to require Sereno as well as regular members and officers of JBC during her application for the chief justice post to comment on the letter of the House of Representatives justice committee seeking “appropriate action” on the reported incomplete statement of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN) she had submitted to the council then.    Miguel de Guzman

Supreme Court orders Sereno, JBC to explain CJ eligibility
Edu Punay (The Philippine Star) - February 21, 2018 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines — The Supreme Court (SC) yesterday ordered embattled Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno and officials of the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) to justify her eligibility for appointment to the top judicial post in 2012.

An insider told The STAR that the justices decided in session to require Sereno as well as regular members and officers of JBC during her application for the chief justice post to comment on the letter of the House of Representatives justice committee seeking “appropriate action” on the reported incomplete statement of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN) she had submitted to the council then.

The source, who spoke on condition of anonymity due to lack of authority to speak for the Court, said those required to answer the House’s request aside from Sereno are JBC members Jose Mejia and Ma. Milagros Cayosa, former members retired justices Aurora Lagman and Regino Hermosisima Jr.

Also covered by the order are JBC executive officer Annaliza Capacite and former chief of office of selection and nomination, now Judge Richard Pascual.

In its two-page letter obtained by The STAR, the House justice committee asked the SC justice to take “appropriate action” on the preliminary finding in the impeachment proceedings that Sereno supposedly did not comply with the 10-year SALN requirement for her chief justice application.

“Considering that the JBC is under the supervision of the SC, the committee on justice, House of Representatives, hereby forwards the following documents for the consideration and appropriate action of the honorable SC,” read the letter signed by acting committee secretary lawyer Rene Delorino.

Among the documents forwarded to the high court were certifications issued by the University of the Philippines and Office of the Ombudsman showing that Sereno only filed SALNs in 2009, 2010 and 2011 prior to her appointment as chief justice.

The letter was addressed to Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio and other associate justices of the SC.

Asked if the Court considers the House’s letter as a complaint, the insider said “not yet, because that would still have to be tackled later on.”

“For now, the Chief Justice is asked to comment on this issue before the Court,” the source explained.

Sereno’s camp has not addressed this issue directly before the House impeachment proceedings as they opted to just wait for the filing of the case before the Senate where they intend to answer the charges in hope of a fair trial. 

In their earlier testimonies before the House panel, Associate Justices Diosdado Peralta and Teresita Leonardo-de Castro slammed the failure of Sereno to meet such documentary requirement during her application for the post to replace the late ousted chief justice Renato Corona.

Peralta said this development puts into question the legitimacy of Sereno’s appointment as chief justice, which he said could be considered “void from the start,” and that her holding the position may be on de facto status only.

Peralta, who served as acting chairman of JBC during Sereno’s application since the more senior justices applied for the post, said had he known about the issue surrounding Sereno’s SALNs, he would have objected to her inclusion in the shortlist of nominees submitted to then president Benigno Aquino III.

De Castro agreed with Peralta’s opinion on the status of Sereno’s appointment because of this violation in the proceedings of JBC.

She also believed that it was “great injustice” for other nominees for the chief justice post knowing that the one appointed by Aquino was actually not qualified due to incomplete requirements.

De Castro even suggested that the JBC regular members could be held liable for violation of Republic Act 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act for including Sereno in the shortlist for the SC vacancy.

The SALN issue is among the 27 charges in the impeachment complaint of lawyer Lorenzo Gadon against Sereno.

Gadon accused Sereno of violating the laws when she only filed SALNs for three years – 1998, 2002 and 2006 – during her tenure as law professor at the UP College of Law for 20 years from 1986 to 2006.

He cited records from the Office of the Ombudsman, UP and JBC that were submitted during impeachment proceedings in the House.

Meanwhile, Sereno’s camp accused Gadon of committing another perjury in his impeachment charges, this time on his claims in the drug cases against detained Sen. Leila de Lima.

Lawyer Jojo Lacanilao, one of Sereno’s spokespersons, said the hearing of the House justice committee last Monday showed that Gadon “completely made up his allegation” that Sereno ordered three trial court judges not to issue warrants of arrest against De Lima.

“This is a barefaced lie. The Chief Justice has never spoken to any of these three judges on this matter, and neither did she instruct any SC official to instruct the judges to not issue a warrant of arrest,” he stressed in a statement.

“This accusation is plainly and simply perjurious and should not merit any further consideration,” the lawyer explained.

Gadon, in his complaint, accuses Sereno of supposedly “instructing” Deputy Court Administrator Jenny Lind Delorino to call Muntinlupa regional trial court judges Juanita Guerrero, Amelia Corpuz and Patria de Leon not to issue warrants of arrest against De Lima.

But Corpuz and De Leon testified before the House panel that nobody from the SC – including the Chief Justice and Delorino – called them to give such instruction.

Delorino further told the panel that Guerrero, who was absent at the committee hearing, also told her she did not receive any instruction not to issue a warrant of arrest against the senator.

She also said she was not instructed by the Chief Justice regarding De Lima’s case.

Lacanilao said Gadon’s accusation was “without any basis whatsoever.”

Lacanilao noted that De Lima was arrested and is presently detained at the Camp Crame Custodial Center in Quezon City on drug-related charges.

All three judges eventually issued separate warrants of arrest against De Lima.

Following the denial of the judges, House justice committee chairman Oriental Mindoro Rep. Reynaldo Umali put to task Gadon to substantiate his allegation so as not to waste the time of the panel.

Earlier in the impeachment proceedings, Umali also warned that Gadon may face perjury raps after Associate Justice De Castro denied releasing information to a reporter that Gadon had cited as evidence in his impeachment complaint.

Sereno’s legal team has long expected Gadon would perjure himself multiple times because he does not have solid and strong evidence to support his complaint.

JUDICIAL AND BAR COUNCIL MARIA LOURDES SERENO SUPREME COURT
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