MANILA - Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno and Associate Justice Teresita Leonardo-De Castro engaged in a fiery exchange as the Supreme Court began oral arguments on a petition to remove the top judge from office.
Sereno and De Castro raised their voices and tried to interrupt each other as they argued over allegations the chief justice failed to fully disclose her wealth in her statement of assets liabilites and net worth.
When Sereno was summoned to the podium, De Castro asked her if she "religiously" filed her SALN every year.
Sereno shot back, saying De Castro filed 15 out of 39 required SALNs. She said other justices should also be made to face the high court if their wealth declarations are questioned.
"I would like to ask you about the submission of your SALN. Did you religiously comply with the submission of the SALN as mandated by law?" De Castro asked.
"Before I answer that question. Can I have your assurance that should a quo warranto petition be filed against any of you, on the ground that one or more of your SALNs are not on record. That you would also, under oath, declare before this court, answer all questions regarding your SALNs. For example Justice De Castro who should have filed 39 SALNs but filed only 15 with the JBC (Judicial and Bar Council)," Sereno replied.
De Castro then said, "Will you please answer the question? You are being asked a question. You are under oath."
"Yes that's true," Sereno interrupted. "But this is important. This is a due process and equal protection issue I am raising now."
Acting Chief Justice Antonio Carpio intervened asking Sereno to yield and answer the question first.
"I maintain that I consistently file my SALNs as required by law," Sereno said, citing the "Doblada Doctrine."
De Castro also denied Sereno's allegation that she held "grudges" against the Chief Justice.
Sereno earlier quoted De Castro as telling her: "I will never forgive you for accepting the Chief Justice-ship."
"I forgot to say something. There is something in your motion for inhibition. There are allegations and grounds stated which I vehemently deny. And I will put that in a resolution that I will later on submit, especially the conversation you mention. It never happened. I'd like to tell that under oath," De Castro said.
"Justice De Castro," Sereno interrupted.
"Excuse me, I'm not yet done," De Castro countered. "The conversation you mentioned in your motion for inhibition, it never happened and I am going to prove that."