Justice De Castro: Did Sereno ‘deceive’ JBC?

MANILA, Philippines – “Eh bakit siya sinama sa listahan? Dapat pala disqualified siya eh (Why was she even part of the list? She should have been disqualified).”

Saying that the “evidence” emerged as a result of the impeachment case against the top magistrate, Supreme Court Associate Justice Teresita Leonardo-de Castro questioned Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno’s inclusion in the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) shortlist for the top judiciary post back in 2012.  

“I am just wondering because it’s emerging now through the evidence in this hearing, that she did not file her SALN (Statement of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth),”  De Castro said during a House committee on justice hearing on Monday, January 29, the  11th hearing to determine probable cause in the impeachment complaint against Sereno. 

The Chief Justice is  the subject of an impeachment complaint filed by lawyer Larry Gadon. The committee has spent over two months to determine probable cause in the complaint, the last step before it eventually votes on whether to impeach Sereno or dismiss the complaint. 

On January 26, Gadon filed a graft complaint against Sereno before the Department of Justice, over the apparent failure to submit SALNs during her stint as University of the Philippines (UP) law professor.

Upon questioning by legislators during the hearing on Monday, De Castro said Sereno’s apparent non-submission of SALNs means she should not have been considered for the Chief Justice post.  

She said the act could have resulted in “unwarranted benefit" that "may constitute a violation of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.”

Members of the committee tried to cut short De Castro’s answer but she continued: “Yung deception po ba, is that a deception of public trust? Sinabi mo qualified ka, meron kang SALN, tapos lalabas hindi mo mapapakita na meron siyang SALN….Lalabas na nagkaroon ng deception.”  

(That deception, is that deception of public trust? You claimed you were qualified, that you have a SALN but it turns out you can’t even show that you have a SALN.....It would turn out there was deception.)  

De Castro pointed out that Sereno’s apparent “deception” could have put at a disadvantage other more senior justices, including Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, in vying for the top post.  

This would not be the first time for De Castro to publicly question the capacity of Sereno – who is set to retire in 2030 – to head the judiciary. De Castro had earlier complained that Sereno had repeatedly made decisions without consulting the SC en banc.

As Chief Justice, Sereno is considered the “first among equals.” 

De Castro had earlier described Sereno as “head strong” when asked why Sereno had a tendency to make decisions without consulting the SC en banc.

Sereno, a former UP law professor, was appointed to the judiciary’s top post in 2012 after impeachment and conviction of the late Renato Corona. Prior to the appointment, Sereno served as SC associate justice for two years. In both posts, she underwent the scrutiny of the JBC, a body tasked to screen applicants for top judiciary posts, from regional and municipal judges to Chief Justice.  – Rappler.com