Two Supreme Court justices on Monday night said Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno violated the high court's internal rules and principle of collegiality through her "unilateral acts".
Associate Justices Lucas Bersamin and Diosdado Peralta confirmed the allegations before the House Justice Committee when asked by SAGIP Partylist Rep. Rodante Marcoleta.
Among the alleged unilateral actions Marcoleta enumerated were the lack of a raffle on the letter of Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II regarding the transfer of Maute cases, alleged exclusion of Justice Francis Jardeleza from the shortlist of SC justice candidates upon the Chief Justice’s invocation of the unanimity rule, and changing Justice Teresita de Castro’s recommended temporary restraining order in the case involving senior citizens.
“If you ask me, affected ako because of that siyempre kasi hindi lang naman siya Supreme Court eh,” Peralta said.
He then cited the case of Jardeleza where they were no longer given the chance to give their opinion on the issue.
Bersamin, on his part, agreed with Peralta.
“Hindi ho kami magkalayo ng paniniwala ni Justice Peralta… Ang Supreme Court ay hindi po maaaring mag-function kung isa ay diktador,” he said, explaining that the strength of the SC is in having varying opinions.
He added, “Definitely, nawala na po, nabura na po yung batas ng samahan na sinasabi ninyo. Hindi ko po pwedeng itanggi na ako po ay offended by those kinds of attitude on the part of a leader who would deprive her colleagues. Primus inter pares lang po siya eh, hindi naman siya po reyna na titingnan, titingalain at susundin,” he said.
Later in the hearing, when the non-raffling of the case involving Aguirre’s letter over the transfer of Maute cases, Bersamin said a justice cannot just get a case without going through a raffle as that would “arbitrary” and “tyrannical.”
“May sablay na nangyari,” he said.
The two justices, however, stopped short of giving their own opinion on whether such alleged acts of the Chief Justice amounted to a culpable violation of the Constitution, one of the impeachable offenses under the Constitution.
Based on the Excerpts from the Record of the Constitutional Commission dated July 26, 1986, "culpable violation of the Constitution" refers to a "willful and intentional violation of the Constitution and not violation committed unintentionally or involuntarily or in good faith or thru an honest mistake of judgment."
Justice Samuel Martires, who also testified during the same hearing, refused to give his own opinion.
He said the Chief Justice has a right to be defended by her lawyers.
Sereno has yet to comment on the two justices' allegations.