SolGen: Sereno ouster plea heard by an 'impartial' SC

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Solicitor General Jose Calida says the participation of six justices in the hearing on Maria Lourdes Sereno's ouster as chief justice did not violate her right to due process.

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, June 14) — The government's top lawyer wants the Supreme Court (SC) to reject Maria Lourdes Sereno's appeal on her ouster as chief justice, insisting that her case was heard "with impartiality."

In a 77-page comment on Sereno's motion for reconsideration, Solicitor General Jose Calida slammed the former chief magistrate's claim that the SC ruling robbed her of the due process in in an impeachment case because of the bias of six associate justices.

"From the filing of the quo warranto petition up to the promulgation of its decision, the Court heard the present case with impartiality," he pointed out.

READ: Sereno appeals ouster ruling, insists 'biased' justices' votes must not count

The Solicitor General said Sereno was given a chance to defend herself from the allegations against her — including the failure to file her Statements of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth from 2002 to 2012.

"She was asked several times if she submitted her SALNs, but instead of presenting evidence, respondent (Sereno) contented herself with making unsubstantiated allegations," Calida said.

He argued that the participation of the six justices who refused to inhibit themselves from the case — Teresita Leonardo-De Castro, Diosdado Peralta, Lucas Bersamin, Francis Jardeleza, Samuel Martires, and Noel Tijam — did not violate Sereno's right to due process, noting that their testimony in the impeachment hearings did not constitute bias or abitrariness.

"There is no basis for the six members of the Court to voluntarily inhibit themselves. Their voluntary recusal must be based on just and valid reasons," he stressed.

The Solicitor General then turned to critics who argued that the move to oust Sereno through a quo warranto petition was unconstitutional because the Constitution only allows the removal of a Chief Justice by impeachment .

But Calida said that he filed the petition because the Chief Justice cannot be impeached or convicted for lack of eligibility.  He also pointed out that the Constitution grants the Supreme Court jurisdiction over quo warranto cases.

The Judicial and Bar Council has held off its search for the next chief justice, pending the high court's final ruling on Sereno's ouster.