CJ Sereno, Justice De Castro clash in ouster proceedings

House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez and Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno. Composite

President Rodrigo Duterte ordered House of Representatives to expedite the impeachment of Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, as he declared the top magistrate an enemy he wanted to get rid of.

"Did you religiously file your SALN?"

During the interpellation, De Castro reminded Sereno that she wrote a dissenting opinion in a prior SC ruling that "failure to comply is a prima facie evidence of unexplained wealth".

Calida's statement was in response to Associate Justice Marvic Leonen's question during oral arguments on his plea.

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court is set to hear a separate petition to unseat Sereno from the country's highest tribunal tomorrow.

Sereno said De Castro's interpretation was out of context.

Sereno, who was appointed by former President Benigno Aquino IIII, replied: "Yes that is true, but this is important".

He said some information are now being floated that majority of the SC justices might give due course and remove Sereno via the quo warranto proceeding. She also denied having any grudge against Sereno.

De Castro noted that Sereno submitted to the JBC on July 27, 2010, her SALN for 2006, even if the requirement was the submission of her latest SALN. She, however, admitted that she had failed to file some of her SALNs with the JBC.

"You're making a lot of excuses for not filing your SALN... The report of the OCA simply stated that it does not have on its file the subject SAL of respondent".

She insited that she has a copy of all her SALNs but said that she was unwilling to show these to the Court.

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"There are 11 instances they could have objected", she said, referring to the JBC.

Acting Chief Justice Antonio T. Carpio said no extension on the period to file the memorandum will be entertained.

Throughout her interpellation, de Castro brought up several issues on Sereno's SALNs, which caused more arguments between the two.

Sereno further argued: "I never knew what was happening inside the JBC". If they found that the three SALNs were not enough, they should have struck out my name out but they did not.

The Chief Justice, however, responded with a question of her own.

"Correct your honor", Calida said.

"Although she is an impeachable officer, she may thus be ousted from office despite her protestations".

Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate warned that the President's verbal attack against Sereno might just be a "smokescreen" for the impending removal of Sereno through the "unconstitutional" quo warranto petition.

Sereno was asked why she filed a letter before the JBC, stating that she cannot file her SALNs when she was still in University of the Philippines considering that the documents then were 15 years old and could no longer be retrieved.

Experts explained that a quo warranto petition is a legal move which questions that qualifications of a person to hold an official position in government which could lead to the ouster of that person.

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