Sereno maintains compliance with SALN submission requirements

Audrey Morallo - Philstar.com
Sereno maintains compliance with SALN submission requirements
Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno on Tuesday maintained that she complied with all the requirements of the Judicial and Bar Council.
The STAR / Michael Varcas

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines’ top magistrate on Tuesday maintained that she has proven integrity and had complied with the requirements of the Judicial and Bar Council that screens appointees to the country’s judiciary, as she appeared before her colleagues to counter moves to remove her from office.

Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno stressed that the fact that she was included in the list of candidates submitted by the JBC to then President Benigno Aquino III for consideration for the country’s top judicial post meant that she “substantially complied” with all the requirements, including the need to submit her Statements of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth.

During a fiery exchange between her and her frequent critic Justice Teresita Leonardo-De Castro, Sereno maintained that everything was done in “good faith.”

Records from the JBC showed that Sereno submitted her SALNs for 2009, 2010 and 2011. She said that she had filed the document yearly since she was appointed an associate justice of the Supreme Court.

“Everything was done in good faith. If they (JBC members) found that my three SALNs were not sufficient, they could have struck me out of the shortlist,” Sereno said in response to questions from De Castro.

The Supreme Court on Tuesday started the oral arguments of the quo warranto petition filed by Solicitor General Jose Calida questioning the legality on Sereno’s hold on office.

Calida maintained that her appointment was “tainted with invalidity”, which could be corrected only by the legal measure.

The solicitor general, the government’s top lawyer, also stressed that an impeachable officer, such as Sereno, could be ousted by a quo warranto.

Calida’s involvement has raised suspicion in the camp of Sereno that President Rodrigo Duterte is directly behind moves to remove her.

Sereno, who was appointed by Aquino, has criticized Duterte’s flagship war on drugs especially after the president implicated several judges, who were under her administrative supervision. The court launched its own probe into the judges implicated.

She has also ruled against Duterte in some high-profile cases such as the declaration of military rule in Mindanao and the burial of the late strongman Ferdinand Marcos at the heroes’ cemetery.

Duterte tells Congress to hasten impeachment process

Sereno’s public questioning of Duterte led the mercurial Philippine leader on Monday to declare that he was already her opponent.

Duterte also called Sereno someone who was “bad” for the Supreme Court that needed to be removed.

He also ordered Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez to hasten the impeachment process in the House, which a spokesman for the president clarified was a directive to his allies in the chamber.

Sereno said that the JBC had 11 chances to remove her from the shortlist if she had an incomplete submission of SALNs but did not do so.

She also maintained that she was not blaming anyone for the issue.

“It was nobody’s fault; it is a purposely legitimate act,” she said.

She said that the “substantial requirement” rule was applied to everyone and was raised when the nomination for the top judicial post of then Justice Roberto Abad was tackled.

She said that the minutes of the meeting showed that it was Justice Diosdado Peralta who gave the excuse that Abad might no longer be able to locate his SALNs as he was with government service for a long time.

Sereno’s fellow magistrates, some of whom refused to recuse themselves from the proceedings, will decide on Sereno’s fate.

Supporters of Sereno held a protest outside of the Supreme Court session in the summer city of Baguio and denounced some of the judges.

Critics meanwhile rallied nearby and called for her resignation.





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