Sereno also seeks De Castro’s inhibition from quo warranto case

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Maria Lourdes P.A. Sereno

CHIEF Justice on leave Maria Lourdes P.A. Sereno sought the additional compulsory disqualification of Associate Justice Teresita Leonardo De Castro from the quo warranto case for having “repeatedly manifested actual bias, if not personal animosity” towards her, Ms. Sereno’s spokespersons said in a statement on Friday.

In a 30-page motion filed through her lawyers led by Alexander Poblador, Ms. Sereno said Ms. De Castro had already prejudged the issue regarding the validity of her 2012 appointment as chief justice, which is the subject matter in the quo warranto petition filed by the Office of the Solicitor-General.

Ms. Sereno noted that even before the filing of the petition, Ms. De Castro already made a determination that the Chief Justice was disqualified for the position as can be gleaned from her testimony before the House Committee on Justice on the impeachment complaint of lawyer Lorenzo G. Gadon.

Ms. De Castro must inhibit herself pursuant to Section 5, Canon 3 of the New Code of Judicial Conduct, which “mandates the inhibition of a judge who is unable to decide the matter impartially or who may appear to a reasonable observer to be unable to decide a matter impartially,” Ms. Sereno said in the statement.

It can be recalled, the statement said, that Ms. De Castro, testifying at the Jan. 29 committee hearing, repeatedly stated under oath that the Chief Justice was disqualified by virtue of her non-submission to the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) of her Statements of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth when she was a law professor at the University of the Philippines.

The statement quoted Ms. De Castro as making the following statements: “Nakakataka ho, bakit ang JBC isinama siya sa short list? Dapat ho disqualified sya, eh. Hindi pala siya dapat nalagay sa short list.” (It makes one wonder why the JBC included her in its short list. She should have been disqualified. She should not have been part of the short list.)

“With due respect to Justice Leonardo-De Castro, it would be contrary to normal human experience for her to suddenly repudiate her conclusions that the Chief Justice was ‘disqualified’, especially when her conclusions were made under oath,” Ms. Sereno said in the statement.

Ms. Sereno further cited “numerous appearances” by Ms. De Castro before the House panel, where she “repeatedly accused the Chief Justice of violating the rules, procedures and practices of the Supreme Court. She also made insinuations questioning Sereno’s psychological fitness for office.”

“Considering her high profile and spirited public participation in the impeachment proceedings against the Chief Justice, she should, with due respect, bear in mind that her decision ‘to sit or not to sit’ on this case will affect to a great extent ‘the all-important confidence’ of the public in the ability of this Honorable Court to render justice impartially,” Sereno argued.

Earlier, Ms. Sereno also moved for the inhibition of Associate Justices Diosdado Peralta, Lucas Bersamin, Francis Jardeleza and Noel Tijam for showing “actual bias” and “animosity” towards her.