CJ Sereno, Justice De Castro clash in ouster proceedings

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, April 10) — Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno figured in multiple heated exchanges with one of her harshest critics during the Supreme Court's ouster proceedings against her.

Associate Justice Teresita Leonardo-de Castro on Tuesday was the first to interpellate Sereno over her Statements of Assets, Liabilities, and Net worth (SALNs).

The clash immediately began after Sereno took her oath.

"Did you religiously comply with the submission of the SALN as mandated by law?" De Castro asked Sereno.

The Chief Justice, however, responded with a question of her own.

"Can I have your assurance that should a quo warranto petition be filed against any of you on the ground that one or more SALNs are not on record, that you would also, under oath, declare before this Court, answer all questions regarding your SALNs?" Sereno said.

She then cited de Castro's submission of only 15 out of her 39 total SALNs since she started government service.

De Castro, along with acting Chief Justice Antonio Carpio interrupted Sereno, urging her to answer the question instead.

Sereno continued with her remarks, saying it is the "due process and equal protection issue" she is raising.

The country's top judge later said, "I consistently filed my SALN as required by law."

Throughout her interpellation, de Castro brought up several issues on Sereno's SALNs, which caused more arguments between the two.

Sereno and de Castro were both candidates for the position of Chief Justice in 2012 to replace the impeached Chief Justice Renato Corona.

The quo warranto, a legal proceeding where an individual's right to hold office is challenged, was filed by the government's top lawyer, Solicitor General Jose Calida. He wants the Supreme Court to void Sereno's appointment as chief justice over her alleged failure to file SALNs for 10 years, before she applied for the Chief Justice post in 2012.

Sereno, however, said the Judicial and Bar Council required candidates to file all their past SALNs, and not just of the past decade.

Sereno submitted her SALNs for 2009, 2010, and 2011. De Castro pointed out Sereno did not submit a single SALN in the 20 years she worked as a law professor at the University of the Philippines.

De Castro in a November 2017 House hearing broke her silence on the rumored rivalry between her and Sereno. She denied having any bias against Sereno, adding that she does not let her emotions get in the way of her job as a magistrate.

Sereno had also sought de Castro's inhibition from the ouster proceedings, citing "personal interest" in the outcome of the petition. The Court, however, denied the motion for lack of merit.