SolGen refuses to seek Justice De Castro's ouster

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, April 25) — The government's top lawyer has denied a private individual's plea for him to file an ouster petition against Associate Justice Teresita Leonardo-de Castro.

In a letter dated April 23 and released to the media Wednesday, Solicitor General Jose Calida denied Jocelyn Maria Acosta's request "for lack of merit," saying it was not supported by evidence.

Acosta wanted Calida to seek de Castro's ouster over discrepancies in her statements of assets, liabilities, and net worth (SALNs), just like he did with Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno over the same issue.

She said she was only following the logic of Calida, de Castro, and suspended lawyer Eligio Mallari in seeking to void Sereno's appointment through a quo warranto petition.

Calida clarified he did not file a quo warranto against the Chief Justice on the basis of Mallari's letter, but because impeachment hearings at the House Committee on Justice revealed her alleged failure to file her SALNs.

"The argument which the OSG propounded against Sereno does not apply to Justice De Castro since it was Sereno who was appointed as the Chief Justice without qualifications back in 2012," Calida added.

De Castro, who vied for the same post, had told lawmakers Sereno should have been disqualified after failing to comply with the SALN requirement set by the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC).

Both De Castro and Sereno were deemed by the JBC to have "substantially complied" with the SALN requirement, Sereno's camp had earlier pointed out.

The JBC has said it had on record 15 of De Castro's SALNs, from 1997-2011. But Acosta and Sereno's camp argued that there should have been 39 SALNs if de Castro had indeed filed all her SALNs since she first worked for the government in 1973.

De Castro is one of Sereno's harshest critics. The Chief Justice had asked that de Castro and four other associate justices inhibit themselves from participating in the quo warranto case, saying they had all "manifested actual bias" against her. But all five denied Sereno's plea.

During oral arguements on the case last April 10, Sereno argued her case before her colleagues and figured in multiple heated exchanges with de Castro.

The Supreme Court will decide the fate of Sereno before the end of May, Acting Chief Justice Antonio Carpio said last week. CNN Philippines' sources said the voting is expected to take place on May 17.