SC reprimands Sereno over statements vs. fellow justices

The Supreme Court (SC) on recently reprimanded ousted chief justice Maria Lourdes Sereno over her statements that “cast aspersions and ill motives” on her former colleagues in the high tribunal.

“The Court, acting on the show cause order in its May 11, 2018 decision, reprimanded the respondent with a stern warning that a repetition of the same acts will merit a heavier penalty,” SC spokesperson Theodore Te said at a media briefing.

When it ousted her over an alleged lack of integrity, the SC also ordered Sereno to explain why she should not be sanctioned for “violating the Code of Professional Responsibility and the Code of Judicial Conduct for transgressing the sub judice rule and for casting aspersions and ill motives to the members of the Supreme Court.”

In its landmark decision, the SC through Associate Justice Noel Tijam said Sereno may be held liable for disbarment for allegedly violating the sub judice rule by “repeatedly discussing the merits” of her case in a manner that could sway the tribunal’s vote and influence public opinion.

The ousted chief magistrate had appeared at several fora and granted media interviews while she was on leave from the SC and spoke with increasing reference to her accusers and her case against her as her ouster neared.

She had also made comments to “degrade the faith of the people to the Judiciary, and falsely impute ill-motives against the government that it is orchestrating the charges against her,” the SC said.

“This wrongful actuation exemplifies a poor regard for the judicial system and may amount to conduct unbecoming of a Justice and a lawyer,” it said.

But Sereno said she had the right to defend herself against accusations thrown her way.

In her compliance to the show cause order, she said she “had to contend with the numerous false and baseless accusations thrown against her all over the media.”

“No less than the Solicitor General of the Republic himself repeatedly attacked Respondent and publicly discussed the merits of the petition and even made personal attacks on Respondent, not only through the media but also through his personal social media (Twitter) account,” she said.

She said she could not be faulted for publicly explaining her side after her demands for due processes were, she claimed, left unheeded.

“Against this backdrop, Respondent cannot reasonably be expected to keep her silence despite vigorous assaults on her integrity. It would certainly be unjust to punish Respondent for speaking publicly under the circumstances,” she said. — RSJ, GMA News