MANILA - The camp of Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno has accused 4 magistrates of the Supreme Court of bias against her in seeking their inhibition from the proceedings on a petition that aims to nullify her appointment.
Sereno had filed separate motions for the recusal of Associate Justices Diosdado Peralta, Lucas Bersamin, Francis Jardeleza, and Noel Tijam, the justice in charge of the quo warranto petition earlier filed against her by Solicitor General Jose Calida.
This after magistrates of the high court decided to hold oral arguments on Calida's petition on April 10 in Baguio City.
Sereno was ordered to attend the proceedings, a request the chief magistrate would heed, according to her spokesperson.
In a statement on Thursday, the Sereno camp argued that the 4 justices have shown “actual bias” against her and “cannot decide the quo warranto petition objectively and impartially.”
“Due process of law requires a hearing before an impartial and disinterested tribunal, and that every litigant is entitled to nothing less than the cold neutrality of an impartial judge,” the chief magistrate's camp said.
The 4 magistrates had testified against Sereno during hearings of the House of Representatives justice committee on the impeachment complaint filed by lawyer Lorenzo Gadon.
Sereno's camp said they also "actively participated" in the "Red Monday" protest at the High Court calling for her resignation.
The recusal petitions also narrated points as to why the 4 magistrates should not participate in the proceedings on the quo warranto plea.
Sereno's camp alleged that Peralta's "apparent bias" emanated from the the belief that she caused the exclusion of his wife, Court of Appeals Associate Justice Fernanda Lampas Peralta, from the list of applicants for presiding justice of the Court of Appeals last year.
Peralta, chairman of the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) at the time Sereno applied for the top judicial post in 2012, had testified that her appointment may be considered void for her failure to comply with the required submission of Statements of Assets Liabilities and Net Worth (SALNs) for 10 years immediately preceding her application.
He said Sereno’s application “should have been denied,” except that her letter seeking an exemption from the rules was not placed under deliberation.
The chief magistrate's camp said Peralta should disqualify himself from the quo warranto case because as former head of the JBC, he would have personal knowledge of disputed evidentiary facts concerning the petition and that he “served as a material witness in the matter in controversy.”
“The Chief Justice has good reason to believe that he (Peralta) may have prejudged the merits of the quo warranto petition and that he may already have formed an opinion that the Chief Justice should have been disqualified to be nominated as Chief Justice,” Sereno said in her 14-page motion seeking Peralta’s inhibition.
Sereno meanwhile alleged that Jardaleza showed his bias against her when he testified before the House justice panel that she allegedly manipulated the JBC shortlist to exclude him from applicants to the high court in 2014.
Jardeleza filed and won the case against Sereno before the Supreme Court. He was shortlisted for the post and thereafter appointed by former President Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III, who had also selected Sereno as top magistrate 2 years earlier.
“There is reasonable basis to conclude from Justice Jardeleza’s testimony that he harbored ill feelings towards the Chief Justice as a consequence of the latter’s challenge to his integrity during the nomination process for the Associate Justice position (vice Hon. Justice Roberto A. Abad) in 2014,” Sereno pointed out in her 18-page motion for Jardeleza’s recusal.
Sereno added that Jardeleza's accusations against her of "committing treason and disloyalty to the country" for illegally disclosing classified documents pertaining to the West Philippine Sea dispute shows the latter's prejudice against her.
"With due respect, this apparent prejudice against the Chief Justice renders Justice Jardeleza disqualified to hear and decide the instant petition,” she said.
Tijam, on the other hand, reportedly made public his sentiments that Sereno should be removed from her post.
Sereno said Tijam was quoted in a news report saying: “If Chief Justice Sereno continues to ignore and continues to refuse to participate in the impeachment process, ergo, she is clearly liable for culpable violation of the Constitution.”
Tijam has said before the House justice committee that Sereno’s failure to appear in the House proceedings “would show disdain and contempt to this committee as this is a constitutional process.”
As for Bersamin, Sereno alleged that the associate justice has “exhibited bias and animosity” towards her when he alluded to the Chief Justice as a “dictator" during his testimony before the House panel.
The Chief Justice has clarified in her motions seeking the recusal of the 4 justices that she maintains her argument that only an impeachment proceeding can remove her from office.
Sereno is currently on leave from her duties at the high court to prepare for a possible impeachment trial at the Senate.