Former Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno on Tuesday, July 17, was reprimanded by the Supreme Court (SC) for the public statements she issued earlier on the quo warranto case.
Justices of the high court voted unanimously to cite Sereno in contempt and penalize her with a “reprimand” that also carries a warning of harsher punishment if she repeats the violations. They ruled that Sereno violated the Code of Professional Responsibility and the Code of Judicial Conduct.
According to the Court, Sereno’s statements on the quo warranto case filed against her by Solicitor General Jose Calida violated the sub judice rule, which prohibits parties from discussing merits of their pending case before the public.
“The Court acting on the show cause order contained in its May 11, 2018 decision reprimanded the respondent with a stern warning that the repetition of the same acts will merit a heavier penalty,” SC Spokesperson Theodore Te said in a press briefing.
Sereno’s public remarks against six justices who voted to oust her despite the plea for their inhibition because of their alleged biases were also part of the basis for the administrative sanction.
“She may be held liable for disbarment for violating the Canons of Professional Responsibility for violating the sub judice rule by repeatedly discussing the merits of the quo warranto petition in different fora and for casting aspersions and ill motives to the Members of the Court even before a decision is made, designed to affect the results of the Court’s collegial vote,” the Supreme Court decision read.
The SC issued a show cause order against Sereno when it ordered her removal from office through a decision on May 11, which became final on June 19.
Sereno, for her part, asked the Court not to penalize her as she did not violate any rules in her compliance filed last month. She claimed that the public statements she made were in response to attacks against her.
She also argued that she could not be blamed for explaining her side to the public when the House justice committee repeatedly rejected her demands to be given the right to due process during the impeachment hearings.
Sereno also mentioned how her right to be heard by the Senate sitting as an impeachment court was denied, as well as her right to be heard by an objective and impartial tribunal when the six justices she accused of bias still participated in the proceedings against her. These were Associate Justices Diosdado Peralta, Lucas Bersamin, Francis Jardeleza, Noel Tijam, Samuel Martires and Teresita Leonardo-de Castro.
According to Sereno, she “cannot reasonably be expected to keep her silence despite vigorous assaults on her integrity” and that her public statements were made as “party-litigant” and not as counsel or judge.
Her camp has deferred commenting on the latest SC ruling, choosing to first wait for an official copy of the decision.