When the Chief Justice becomes the accused
WHAT MATTERS MOST - Atty. Josephus B. Jimenez (The Freeman) - April 10, 2018 - 12:00am

The word "accused" is used only in criminal cases. And since a quo warranto petition and an impeachment complaint is not a criminal proceeding, then Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno should be referred to as the respondent chief justice. So what now that the chief magistrate of the land is being tried by her own peers? Are the 14 associate justices going to treat her like anyone else brought to court via a petition? Or will they treat her with deference and courtesy?

How will the Supreme Court resolve the pending motion for the inhibition of Associate Justices Teresita Leonardo-de Castro, Diosdado Peralta, Lucas Bersamin, Francis Jardeleza, and Noel Tijam? Their testimonies before the House of Representatives were adverse to Sereno's positions. They said Sereno delayed the processing of pensions and survivorship benefits of widows of retired judges and justices. They also testified Sereno violated some SC internal rules. Thus, delicadeza should impel them to inhibit. They have already formed definite opinions on the guilt or innocence of Sereno, therefore, if they persist in sitting as judges the SC shall stop being impartial.

I know a good number of the justices and they know me because of official matters. Bersamin is my neighbor in BF Homes and father of my former student, Pia, in the UST Faculty of Civil Law. Pia's husband (a Makati City judge) was also my student. Peralta is also my neighbor in BF Homes. Both justices were my co-professors in the colleges where I teach, and also my co-Bar reviewers in the various law review centers. Jardeleza was my immediate boss in San Miguel Corp. where he was chief general counsel. I was the deputy general counsel for labor litigations. Bersamin and Jardeleza were both Bar topnotchers and I hold them in high esteem for their wisdom and experience.

When Sereno becomes the respondent of a case to be heard and decided by her colleagues, to my mind this country's justice system is put to an acid test. Justice itself is on trial. I have full trust on the probity of all 14 justices, including the five mentioned. Inhibition is a matter that should be addressed to the free will of these five legal eagles. Sereno should be confident there is nothing personal about these. If innocent, let her face the court with dignity and valor. If guilty, she should expect to be meted the appropriate penalty, including, but not limited to, her ouster from the court. If that happens, she makes history again as the first lady chief justice and the first to be ousted by quo warranto. Chief justice Renato Corona was the first to be impeached. History will remember them for that.

Whatever happens, let the people hear the truth. Let judgment be based on the facts and the law, no matter who gets hurt. After all, ours is a government of laws, not a government of men (or women).

josephusbjimenez@gmail.com

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