SOLICITOR General Jose Calida on Tuesday prodded the Supreme Court to grant his quo warranto petition seeking the ouster of Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno for failure to comply with the submission of the 10-year Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth requirement before the Judicial and Bar Council when she applied for the post in 2012.
In a 64-page reply to Sereno’s comment, Calida reiterated his plea for the SC to nullify Sereno’s appointment in August 2012 and remove her from the top judicial post for not complying with the submission of the 10-year SALNs requirement.
Calida branded Sereno’s answer as “a litany of falsehoods” and proof of her “utter lack of integrity.”
“Sereno’s repeated failure to file her SolGen 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,” the Solicitor General stressed.
Calida also accused the Chief Justice of fabricating her SALN for 2006 during her application for the SC as associate justice in 2010.
“When Sereno resigned in June 2006 as a UP professor, she should have submitted a SALN as of 2006. Her 2006 SALN, however, bears no stamp receipt from UP, was only signed on July 27, 2010, the same day that she submitted it to the JBC and was not notarized,” he claimed.
The chief state lawyer noted that Sereno’s SALN for 1998 was filed only in 2003, or five years beyond the period required by law, Sereno’s 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 August 16, 2010.”
Lastly, Calida said 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.
“Truth, however, is that she failed file her SALN 11 times from 1986 to 2006,” Calida pointed out.
“These are perjurious acts [which] further bolster Sereno’s utter lack of integrity,” he said.
In her answer to the quo warranto petition, Sereno asked the SC to dismiss the petition on technical ground, particularly for lack of jurisdiction and violation of the one-year prescription period for filing such case.
Sereno asserted that the SC had 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 an impeachable official.
Citing Section 2, Article XI of the Constitution, she said impeachable officials—including herself and all justices of SC—may only be removed from office upon impeachment by the House of Representatives and conviction by the Senate, sitting as an impeachment court.
Sereno also revealed she had recovered some of the “missing” SALNs during her tenure as law professor in UP.
But she stressed that she would only submit them to the Senate for the imminent impeachment trial.
However, Calida questioned this, saying the Chief Justice should respect the proceedings before the High Court and submit the SALNs.
“Why doesn’t she want so submit those SALNs to the SC? Is she hiding something?” he asked in an interview with reporters.
In the petition filed last March 5, Calida asked the SC to nullify the Sereno’s appointment over ineligibility for the top judicial post and order her removal from office as a de facto official whose authority was allegedly hinged on an appointment that was void from the start.
The solicitor general argued that Sereno did not meet the specific qualification of proven integrity for the chief justice post with her failure to comply with the required submission of 10-year Statements of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth.
A quo warranto petition, as provided in both Section 5(1), Article VIII of the Constitution and Rule 66 of the Rules of Court, challenges the legal basis of one’s appointment and seeks the removal of the respondent from office because of lack of qualification or legal basis to continue holding such office.
Meanwhile the camp of Sereno said JBC required all applicants for the position of chief justice in 2012 to submit “all” previous Statements of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth (SALNs) up to December 31, 2011, but ended up waiving such requirement after 14 of the candidates could not comply.
Sereno’s spokesperson Josa Deinla made the 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 December 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,” she 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 December 2011) for those in the government or SALN as of 31 December 2011 from those from the private sector.”
Deinla also clarified that the filing of SALNs by those in government was not only imposed in 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 August 1960,” she explained.
“After the 1987 Constitution took effect, RA 6713 expanded the requirement to include spouses and unmarried children. 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 would show that De Castro had 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 the University of the Philippines 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 JBC requirement which the council can waive.”
Besides, Deinla said, “mere non-submission of SALNs to the JBC is not proof of non-filing.”
The lawyer 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.”
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