MANILA, Philippines – Saying she “has demonstrated bias and partiality towards the present administration,” former first gentleman Jose Miguel ‘Mike’ Arroyo on Thursday, September 6, sought for the inhibition of Chief Justice Lourdes Sereno from a case questioning the validity of a Department of Justice travel ban.
In 2011, the DOJ placed Mr Arroyo and his wife, former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, under a watchlist order, barring them from leaving the country. The Arroyo couple in turn asked the SC to invalidate the order. The High Court has yet to rule on the matter.
In a motion for prohibition filed through his lawyers Ferdinand Topacio and Joselito Lomangaya, Arroyo said that Sereno showed “propensity for voting in favor of the administration,” citing her votes in the following cases:
a.) Truth Commission: The majority ruled in 2010 that the the commission, which was formed to probe Arroyo, was unconstitutional. Sereno voted otherwise.
b.) The issuance of a temporary restraining order (TRO) sought by then Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez: The then Ombudsman had asked the SC in 2010 to stop the committee on justice in the House of Representatives from proceeding with the impeachment hearing against her. The majority voted to grant her petition; Sereno dissented.
c.) The issuance of a TRO sought by Arroyo and her husband Jose Miguel: The SC issued a TRO in 2011 which stopped the Department of Justice from enforcing its travel ban against the Arroyo couple. Sereno disagreed with the decision.
d.) The TRO issuance that stopped the disclosure of the dollar accounts owned by then Chief Justice Renato Corona: The PsBank had sought the TRO after Corona’s dollar accounts were brought up in his impeachment trial at the Senate. The majority voted for the issuance of the TRO. Sereno dissented.
e.) The release of SC records and appearance of Court employees in Corona’s impeachment trial: Sereno voted in favor of providing the Senate with Court documents related to the allegations brought up by the prosecution against Corona, as well as in allowing Court employees to testify before the impeachment court.
f.) The distribution of Hacienda Luisita to farmers: Sereno voted in favor of distributing the 4,000-hectare sugar plantation to farmers, but said land valuation for the just compensation of the Cojuangco family (the family of President Aquino’s mother) should be pegged at the 2006 value (P2.5 million/hectare), and not the 1989 fair market value (P40,000/hectare).
“Being supremely compliant to the will of the present occupant of Malacañang, it is more than a fair expectation to anticipate the Chief Justice’s vote in favor of the government’s position in this case, regardless of the merits,” Arroyo’s camp said.
Topacio and Lomangaya also pointed out that Sereno’s December 2011 dissent – where she voted against the issuance of the TRO sought by the Arroyo couple – was quoted extensively by Justice Secretary Leila de Lima when she testified against Corona in his impeachment trial in February. De Lima is the respondent in the case pending before the SC.
In that dissenting opinion, Sereno said that the SC voted 7-6 for the suspension of the TRO after the Arroyos failed to comply with one of the conditions attached to the TRO. Corona, in the resolution that was eventually promulgated, wrote otherwise.
Arroyo’s camp also noted that Sereno herself was asked by the prosecution to tesify in the impeachment trial; the SC barred the justices and court employees from doing so, however.
“Those mentioned show beyond peradventure that CJ Sereno was consistently toeing the Aquino Government’s line that Petitioner Arroyo and his wife are already guilty of plundering the public treasury, that they should be forcibly kept within the country, and that in fact it was justifiable for the DOJ to disregard a lawfully-issued TRO from this Court. By these, she has shown early on where her loyalties lie, and how she will vote. Her neutrality has been neutered,” Arroyo’s lawyers said. – Rappler.com
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