FIVE JUSTICES WHO accused Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno of various offenses in the House Justice Committee have, despite the repeated entreaties of the public, refused to inhibit themselves from the Quo Warranto action filed against her. Their names: Teresita de Castro, Noel Tijam, Lucas Bersamin, Francis Jardeleza, Diosdado Peralta.
CJ Sereno last week filed motions for their inhibition, but these motions should not even be necessary. Common sense, delicadeza, and the norms of judicial conduct demand that they recuse themselves voluntarily for failing the test of the “cold neutrality of the impartial judge.” But from their behavior thus far, it is unlikely that these five will budge.
Their hypocrisy is titanic. At least two of them, Diosdado Peralta and Lucas Bersamin, authored decisions invoking Canon 3 on Impartiality in the new Code of Judicial Conduct.
In Jorda v. Judge Bitas (718 SCRA 1), Justice Peralta wrote:
In pending or prospective litigations before them, judges should be scrupulously careful to avoid anything that may tend to awaken the suspicion that their personal, social or sundry relations could influence their objectivity. Not only must judges possess proficiency in law, they must also act and behave in such manner that would assure litigants and their counsel of the judges’ competence, integrity and independence. Even on the face of boorish behavior from those he deals with, he ought to conduct himself in a manner befitting a gentleman and a high officer of the court.
This Court has long held that court officials and employees are placed with a heavy burden and responsibility of keeping the faith of the public. Any impression of impropriety, misdeed or negligence in the performance of official functions must be avoided. This Court shall not countenance any conduct, act or omission on the part of all those involved in the administration of justice which would violate the norm of public accountability and diminish the faith of the people in the Judiciary.
And in Nelso Lai y Bilbao v. People of the Philippines (761 SCRA 156), Justice Bersamin pronounced:
…no judge should preside in a case in which he is not wholly free, disinterested, impartial and independent. A judge has both the duty of rendering a just decision and the duty of doing it in a manner completely free from suspicion as to its fairness and as to his integrity. The law conclusively presumes that a judge cannot objectively or impartially sit in such a case and, for that reason, prohibits him and strikes at his authority to hear and decide it, in the absence of written consent of all parties concerned. The purpose is to preserve the people’s faith and confidence in the courts of justice.
Such lofty ideals…and yet both of them rolled in the mud, as it were, along with de Castro, Jardeleza, and Tijam not too long ago when they were called by Rey Umali’s Committee. They all behaved shabbily: they were puerile or petty or petulant, or all of the above. In my view, they stained the High Court indelibly with their malevolent rancor. But don’t take my word for it – let them speak for themselves:
The accusers cannot be the judges in the Quo Warranto case. They should inhibit! #InhibitBiased5
Gepostet von Stand With CJ am Samstag, 7. April 2018
Canon 3, Section 1 of the Code of Judicial Conduct states: “Judges shall perform their judicial duties without favor, bias or prejudice.”
It is unlikely that the five can now muster objectivity after so volubly intimating what they think is wrong with CJ Sereno. On national television at that. No thinking Filipino will believe them. Netizens are outraged. Even those who live in the real world decry the calumny of the Biased 5. The Justices may argue that they merely expressed their “honest opinion,” but because that opinion was skewed, they cannot now claim neutrality. Animosity and impartiality cannot occupy the same space.
This is clear to most people. “Hindi dapat humusga ang nag-aakusa,” commented one netizen. “Based on their actuations and statements these past few months, they will never be impartial… they will definitely be biased… thus, they should inhibit!” said another. “Sana po yung tama ang gawin n’yo. ‘Wag po sanang seared ang conscience n’yo. Mag-inhibit kayong limang Justices,” pled yet another. Visit the Coalition for Justice Facebook page and scroll down the comments there. You will see a plethora of similar sentiments.
The Quo Warranto action filed by Solicitor General Jose Calida is an empty petition which he filled with inapplicable cases and misleading technicalities. It is the legal version of fake news. The freshman law student knows this. The Supreme Court should, but it is playing footsie with a tyrant. CJ Sereno is the last obstacle to the Duterte regime’s authoritarian agenda, and by all means, in their minds, she must go down. With a Duterte Chief Justice in place, there will be no impediment to Charter Change and Federalism, both of which will surely be questioned before the High Court. With a Duterte Chief Justice, there will be soon be a new vice president. With a Duterte Chief Justice, all challenges to this regime’s anti-democratic policies will be demolished. This is why CJ Sereno must not go down.
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.
“History will be the judge,” goes the cliché. Indeed. And I am certain that history will be as impartial as they have failed to be. Their fate is sealed. The Biased 5 have testified against themselves and the people shall decide their future. These dishonorables have sold their inheritance for a mess of pottage. They will reap the whirlwind.
“You shall do no injustice in court. You shall not be partial to the poor or defer to the great, but in righteousness shall you judge your neighbor.” – Leviticus 19:15