MANILA (UPDATE) - A lawyer on Friday asked the Supreme Court to compel Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno to submit statements of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN) she had allegedly failed to file and prove that she had passed her psychological test prior to her appointment to the High Court.
Lawyer Romeo Igot, who runs a law office in Pasig City, was the latest to file a case against the embattled chief magistrate.
Sereno, currently on leave from her duties at the high court, is facing an impeachment complaint that questions her failure to file her SALN for a 17-year period during her stint as a University of the Philippines professor.
In a 10-page petition for mandamus and prohibition, Igot said should Sereno fail to comply, she must “be prohibited from further assuming her functions as the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court and to declare her appointment as Chief Justice of the Philippine Supreme Court null and void and/or invalid for lack of qualification."
Igot’s petition stemmed from the House of Representatives’ hearings on the impeachment complaint that lawyer Lorenzo Gadon filed against Sereno, accusing her of culpable violation of the Constitution, betrayal of public trust, and other high crimes.
The filing of SALNs is required under Article XI, Section 17 of the 1987 Constitution and the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees.
Apart from missing SALNs, as certified by the University of the Philippines Human Resources Office, Office of the Ombudsman and Judicial and Bar Council (JBC), Sereno also obtained a low grade of 4 in her psychiatric and psychological evaluation, a rating which Igot described as “one notch above the psychotic rating of 5.”
On Sereno’s test results, Igot said: “[I]t is the [JBC's] policy not to recommend for a court position anyone rating below 3 in their psychological assessments, yet the Chief Justice was included in the short list of nominees for Chief Justice.”
“Considering the gravity of the matter, the petitioner prays that the findings of the said psychologist be made available for scrutiny by the Honorable Supreme Court to be utilized as one of the gauges in determining the merit of this petition.
Sereno's camp had previously said psychological incapacity is not a ground for impeachment.
Clinical psychologist Geraldine Tria earlier cited the findings of 2 psychiatrists who said Sereno exhibited 5 symptoms of an emotional and dramatic type of personality, including "grandiosity, sense of unlimited power, sense of entitlement, exploitative and lack of empathy."
Igot said the high court “owe it to themselves and to our country to keep untarnished the image of the Supreme Court and to keep inviolable their individual and collective continuing ministerial duty to comply with the requirements for the positions they hold and to protect and purge itself of those who [do] not deserve to assume the most important position in the judiciary.”
Continuing to function as a collegial body despite knowledge that Sereno is not eligible to hold her position is tantamount to grave abuse of discretion on the part of the SC en banc, Igot pointed out.
“[W]ith all due respect, to allow a situation like this to continue, despite clear evidence of lack or failure of compliance with the requirements for the position, would be allowing a tribunal, the Supreme Court, or persons, Chief Justice Sereno and the Associate Justices individually, to unlawfully neglect the performance of an act which the law specifically enjoins as a duty resulting from an office or station, which in this case is the duty to see to it that each of them possesses continuing probity and mental fitness as befits the highest magistrates of the land,” the petition stated.
A separate quo warranto petition filed by the Office of the Solicitor General (OSG) is pending with the high court. It also seeks to void Sereno’s appointment due to her supposed ineligibility to hold the post, alleging her failure to file her SALNs while teaching at the UP College of Law.
Refusing to resign amid a mounting call for her to quit, the embattled Chief Justice vowed to answer all the issues thrown against her at the Senate.