A GROUP OF clergymen and religious academics has challenged Supreme Court (SC) Associate Justice Samuel R. Martires’ candidacy for the post of Ombudsman, citing his “bias and partiality” in the quo warranto case that ousted Chief Justice Maria Lourdes P.A. Sereno on May 11.
In their six-page letter of opposition submitted on Monday to the Judicial and Bar Council’s (JBC) Ex-Officio Chairman and Acting Chief Justice Antonio T. Carpio, members of the St. Vincent School of Theology, Faith Bible College, Inc., and Asian Theological Seminary said Mr. Martires “has failed to meet (the) standard” for the post due to his lack of probity.
The group defined probity as the “adherence to the highest principles and ideals” and “having strong moral principles, honesty, and decency.”
“Justice Martires’ refusal to inhibit himself from the Quo Warranto case despite the clear directive in the New Code of Judicial Conduct that requires a judge to disqualify himself mandatorily when there is bias and partiality as shown by having more personal knowledge on facts being disputed during a trial shows his lack of probity,” the letter read.
Ms. Sereno had accused Mr. Martires of “faith-shaming” her during the oral arguments in the complaint against her filed by Solicitor-General Jose C. Calida for not completely submitting her Statements of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth to the JBC as a requirement to the post of chief justice. He was also one of the eight justices who granted Mr. Calida’s petition.
The group also said Mr. Martires’ “patently biased line of questioning during the oral arguments on the connection between (Ms. Sereno’s mental health) and (God as a source of strength) betrays a blatant lack of respect for faith-based communities despite the clear Constitutional guarantee mandating respect for religious freedom which as a Justice of the Supreme Court he is bound to observe.”
“The interrogatories raised by the Hon. Justice Martires cause offense because one cannot make generalizations of the overall mental health of a person based on one’s religious belief and practice. To imply that Chief Justice Sereno’s religiosity is an indication of mental illness is not based on reasoned rhetoric nor judicial examination because an expert on the matter has to look at other indicators such as how the subject person carries herself and how she behaves under stress — facts which are not at issue in the quo warranto proceeding,” the letter added.
The group also cited against his favor Mr. Martires’ rulings with the SC and the Sandiganbayan, which he previously served. The group cited a case involving the late dictator Ferdinand E. Marcos.
Mr. Martires and nine other candidates vying to replace retiring Ombudsman Conchita Caprio-Morales are set to be interviewed by the JBC on Wednesday. — Dane Angelo M. Enerio