MANILA (UPDATE) - Claiming that newly-appointed Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno "has demonstrated bias and partiality towards the present administration" and "is subservient to the Aquino-Cojuangco Family," lawyers of former First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo formally sought her inhibition from deciding his pending case before the Supreme Court involving the Dept. of Justice's travel ban against him.
In a 13-page motion for inhibition, Atty. Ferdinand Topacio and Joselito Lomangaya cited Sereno's voting record, which they say have been subservient to or in favor of the Aquino administration, including the cases involving the Philippine Truth Commission, the impeachment of former Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez, the Arroyo watch list cases, PS Bank petition on the reported dollar accounts of former Chief Justice Renato Corona, and the Senate Impeachment Court's request for confidential court documents and appearance of court officials and personnel in the Corona impeachment trial.
"All of the above instances illustrate in big bright impasto strokes the propensity of CJ Sereno to vote blindly and consistently in favor of the stand of the present administration whenever it has shown its unequivocal interest - and at times a direct hand - in a desired result from the Supreme Court. This may be a consequence of her having been plucked from relative obscurity and appointed Associate Justice by the sitting President, a debt of gratitude now magnified many times over by her recent appointment as Chief Justice," the motion read.
The lawyers further claimed that Sereno's vote in the landmark Hacienda Luisita agrarian dispute case benefited Pres. Aquino's family. Sereno's first vote placed valuation of the Luisita agricultural lands at 2006 real estate values while the majority ruled to peg it at 1989 land valuation. She later changed her vote and instead opted for valuation to be determined by a special agrarian court.
In the above-stated cases, Topacio and Lomangaya argued that the Chief Justice "has put personal predilections over and above the letter of the law, to the extent of locking horns with the majority."
"She thus shows that deficiency in the requisite objectivity that should suffuse all the official acts of a judge," they said.
In Mr. Arroyo's pending case, his lawyers said that Sereno should inhibit especially so that the respondent, DOJ Sec. Leila De Lima, is an alter ego of Pres. Aquino.
It may be recalled that in a resolution issued in Sept. 2011, the high court junked Mr. Arroyo's petition questioning the DOJ travel ban on the basis that it was rendered moot and academic following its lifting by the department. His camp, however, insists, the case should be decided on its merits because of its constitutional implications and because it is a matter of public interest.