Complainants, witnesses and judges all in one.
This is the crux of the argument of those who are asking certain justices of the Supreme Court to inhibit themselves from participating in the quo warranto petition filed by Solicitor General Jose Calida against Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno.
Specifically, the following justices are being asked to recuse themselves from joining the oral argument, the subsequent deliberation thereof and eventually in casting their votes in the move to remove the head magistrate from the highest court of the land, to wit: Justice Teresita De Castro, Justice Diosdado Peralta, Justice Lucas Bersamin, Justice Francis Jardeleza and Justice Noel Tijam.
It should be remembered that these five justices voluntarily appeared before the Committee on Justice of the House of Representatives which at that time was in the process of determining whether there is probable cause to impeach Sereno. In the said hearing, the above-named justices accused the chief justice of various offenses and shortcomings described by many law experts and constitutionalists as failing the test to be deemed impeachable offenses.
At best, the testimonies of the five justices are mere grievances on the management and leadership style of the chief justice. But, at the minimum, they are rants of senior members of the court who were bypassed after a new and younger colleague was appointed as the top judge in the country.
“I will never forgive you for accepting the Chief Justiceship. You should not even have applied in the first place,” Sereno recalled being told by De Castro on her first day as chief justice after the latter was appointed by then President Noynoy Aquino in 2012.
This was confirmed by De Castro herself when she told the Justice committee that Sereno should not have been included in the shortlist of applicants for chief justice issued by the Judicial Bar Council (JBC).
“She should not have been even interviewed. She should have been excluded,” De Castro declared.
Peralta agreed with De Castro but for a different reason. Peralta was bitter because her wife, Justice Fernanda Lampas-Peralta of the Court of Appeals, was not included in the said shortlist.
“If they allowed Sereno to be voted as chief justice, why did they not allow my wife?” Peralta hurtfully asked.
Peralta’s bestfriend, Bersamin, on the other hand, claimed that he is offended by Sereno’s attitude as a leader.
“Hindi naman siya reyna na titingnan, titingalain at susundin,” Bersamin said.
Jardeleza, on his part, accused Sereno of acting “disloyally to the country” for purportedly using a classified information in blocking his nomination as member of the Supreme Court.
“I believe that is not an act of a normal person,” Jardeleza quipped.
Tijam, an appointee of President Rodrigo Duterte and reported to be the one in charge in penning the decision in the quo warranto petition, blasted Sereno’s refusal to appear in the hearings of the Justice committee.
“That would show disdain, that would show contempt to this committee,” Tijam claimed.
Undeniably, the pronouncements of the five justices show their personal animosity against, and an antagonistic attitude towards, the chief justice.
Canon 3 of the Code of Judicial Conduct provides that “impartiality is essential to the proper discharge of the judicial office. It applies not only to the decision itself but also to the process by which the decision is made.”
Section 1 thereof enjoins judges, and this includes the justices of the Supreme Court, to “perform their judicial duties without favor, bias or prejudice.”
The bias of the five justices as well as their lack of cold neutrality as judges only mean that they cannot act with the required impartiality in dealing with the Calida petition and should, therefore, inhibit themselves from taking part in whatever way in the said case.
“Judges shall disqualify themselves from participating in any proceedings in which they are unable to decide the matter impartially or in which it may appear to a reasonable observer that they are unable to decide the matter impartially,”
Section 5 of the above-cited Canon provides.
Unfortunately, few hours before the scheduled oral argument, there are no signs that the five justices will voluntarily recuse themselves from participating in hearing of the petition. This, despite the overwhelming proof that they cannot act as impartial, fair and disinterested persons in the case where they acted as complainants, witnesses and now judges at the same time.
Worse, it was reported that Peralta has unethically assured Calida that no one from the five justices, shameless as it is, will heed the call for their inhibition.
Blogger Cham Clowder, in an article entitled “Dishonorable” that went viral during the weekend, accused the five justices of complicity in this revolting defiance of the constitution and the rule of law.
“The Biased 5’s refusal to inhibit themselves reveals their complicity with this oppressive plot, and their resolve to defy decency, the Constitution, and the rule of law. What motivates such brazenness? Whatever their reason is must be worth it – worth the loss of credibility, reputation, and especially their place in posterity. Just what is the cost of all that? I suspect it is their souls,”
the blogger said.
We totally agree except with the tag “Biased 5.” We think that Shameless Five is more apt.
Mga walang-hiya, mga garapal at mga makakapal ang mukha!