By Rey Panaligan
The Supreme Court (SC) reprimanded on Tuesday former Chief Justice Maria Lourdes P. A. Sereno for discussing the merits of the quo warranto case that led to her ouster as head of the judiciary.
Sereno was also sanctioned “for casting aspersions and ill motives to the members of the Supreme Court.”
In a resolution after Tuesday’s full court session, the SC warned Sereno “that a repetition of the same acts will merit a heavier penalty.”
The May 11 decision that ousted Sereno directed her “to show cause within 10 days from receipt hereof 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.”
Under the sub judice rule, a matter that is under judicial or court consideration “may not be an appropriate subject to comment on publicly” and “any such comment may subject the commentator to contempt of court.”
Published reports which were given judicial notice by the SC showed that Sereno appeared in several fora and media interviews where she openly criticized her fellow magistrates for taking cognizance of the quo warranto petition. She had also insisted that only impeachment, not quo warranto, could remove her as Chief Justice.
Sereno had also criticized six of her colleagues – De Castro, Peralta, Bersamin, Francis H. Jardeleza, Samuel R. Martires, Noel G. Tijam – for participating in the resolution of the quo warranto case despite their testimonies in the congressional inquiry on the impeachment complaints filed against her.
The decision that ousted Sereno became final last June 19. The finality paved the way for the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) to open its search for a new Chief Justice.
The five most senior justices — Antonio T. Carpio who is now acting Chief Justice, Presbitero J. Velasco Jr., Teresita J. Leonardo de Castro, Diosdado M. Peralta and Lucas P. Bersamin – are automatic aspirants to the post of Chief Justice.
Velasco and De Castro are retiring on August 8 and October 26, respectively, this year when they reach the mandatory retirement age of 70. Like Carpio, Bersamin would retire mandatorily next year. Peralta, on the other hand, has still four years in the judiciary.
As of Tuesday, none of the five justices has accepted the automatic nomination for the post of Chief Justice.