De Castro, other SC justices deny bias in Sereno ouster

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Justice Teresita Leonado-de Castro and ousted Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno have figured in multiple heated exchanges during the hearing on the quo warranto petition filed by Solicitor General Jose Calida.

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 12) — Associate Justice Teresita Leonardo-De Castro and the other justices who voted to oust Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno's denied harboring any biases. 

In the concurring opinion released Friday, De Castro said the disagreements between her and Sereno are clearly not personal but "work-related."

"It is not my personal interest or actual bias but the common interest of every incumbent Member of the Court to find the truth in whether or not respondent Maria Lourdes P. A. Sereno has the integrity to qualify her to hold the highest position in the Judiciary," De Castro said.

She added that Sereno lacked basis in requesting her to inhibit from voting in the ouster plea.

"Respondent's accusation against me is but a figment of her imagination. She lied once again as she did many times even under oath without remorse or guilt feelings," the associate justice said, referring to Sereno's claim that De Castro would not forgive her for applying for the chief justice post.

She also denied feeling bitter about not being appointed Chief Justice, since De Castro enjoys seniority over the ousted chief magistrate.

"I have been publicly maligned and accused to be bitter about not being appointed as Supreme Court Chief Justice," she said. "For years now, respondent and I have had a generally professional relationship and I have been exerting my best as a Supreme Court Associate Justice."

The Associate Justice, in her concurring opinion, said Sereno continuously demonstrated her "proclivity to lie, mislead, bend the rules, and exploit the exemptions" during her stint since her application as Supreme Court Associate Justice, over her failure to file her Statements of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth (SALNs) from 2002 to 2006.

De Castro and Sereno have figured in multiple heated exchanges during the hearing on the quo warranto petition filed by Solicitor General Jose Calida against the chief magistrate.

The two were both candidates for the position of Chief Justice, which has been vacated when former Chief Justice Renato Corona was impeached in 2012.

De Castro is one of the eight justices who voted to grant Calida's quo warranto petition on Friday, which effectively unseats Sereno from her office.

Justice-Votes-Quo-Warranto_CNNPH.jpeg Eight justices voted to grant the quo warranto petition against then Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno. The quo warranto is a legal proceeding where an individual's right to hold office is challenged.  

Not the only one

The other justices asked by Sereno to inhibit from the quo warranto proceedings also denied claims they were not impartial.

Justice Lucas Bersamin in his concurring opinion said Sereno's imputations of bias are unwarranted and unfair.

"The first is that the respondent has directly challenged my neutrality as a judge to sit and decide on the basis that I have a bias against her. I deplore her challenge, and reject her bases for the challenge," he said. "I maintain my ability to sit in her case and decide as a fair-minded and objective judge."

Sereno accused Bersamin of bias after he reportedly wore red during the March 12 flag-raising ceremony at the SC. In that ceremony, employees wore red to call for Sereno's resignation.

Justice Diosdado Peralta also claimed Sereno did not have "clear or convincing" evidence of his bias against her. Sereno had pointed out that since Peralta testified in the House Justice panel impeachment hearings, he should inhibit from the case.

"There has to be a showing of acts or conduct clearly indicative of arbitrariness or prejudice before the Court can brand them with the stigma of bias or partiality. Mere suspicion is not enough," Peralta said in his concurring opinion.

Another justice asked by Sereno to inhibit from the quo warranto proceedings, Justice Samuel Martires, also called out her "lies."

Sereno previously accused Martires of "impaired partiality" over the petition since he allegedly used Sereno's faith as basis for her competence.

"Calling me a 'faith shamer' hit me where it hurts most as movant Sereno is fully aware that we have the same spiritual beliefs that God is the reason for our success, the source of our happiness, and the center of our lives," Martires wrote in a separate opinion.

Martires then dared Sereno to speak the truth to what he said.

"She cannot forever cowardly hide the truth by mudslinging every person who she thinks could unravel her distorted claims," Martires added.

Meanwhile, Sereno's legal counsel Josa Deinla said Friday their camp is "seriously considering" to file a motion for reconsideration for the SC ruling. Deinla said since the vote was close, the decision could be overturned.