Veloso: Sereno’s appointment as Chief Justice ‘void from the beginning’

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Leyte third-district Rep. Vicente Veloso opined on Monday that Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Serenos’ appointment could be invalid from the start as a result of her failure to comply with the Judicial and Bar Council requirements.

“Lumalabas talaga ngayon that the appointment of Sereno was void from the beginning,” he said during the House impeachment hearing.

Veloso, a vice chair of the House committee on justice, added that it may not even be necessary to impeach Sereno to remove her from office.

At the same hearing, two Supreme Court justices said Sereno should have been disqualified from her post for her failure to submit her Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth (SALN) to the JBC.

Associate Justices Diosdado Peralta and Teresita Leonardo de Castro said they were not informed that Sereno had failed to submit her most recent SALNs for the past 10 years as required of all candidates for the position.

Peralta, who presided over the JBC proceedings for the nominees for the position vacated by impeached Chief Justice Renato Corona, said the July 20, 2012 letter of Sereno asking for exemption to the submission of SALN was not presented to the council en banc.

“The letter of the Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno dated July 23, 2012 was never presented to the Judicial (and Bar Council) en banc for discussion. I think the minutes will bear that out. Likewise the certificate of clearance attached to the said letter was not also included for deliberation in the JBC en banc when we considered the candidates for voting,” Peralta said.

Peralta said that had he known about the letter he would object against the selection of Sereno as Chief Justice because that is a clear deviation from the rules requiring all applicants to the position to submit their SALNs to the JBC.

“In this particular case, the Chief Justice was requesting for her (exclusion) from that requirement,” Peralta said.

De Castro, who also applied for the position of Chief Justice, said this was the first time she knew about the letter, saying the appointment of Sereno despite her failure to comply with the rules constitute an injustice to the other applicants.

“A great injustice was done to us—the other candidates or the other applicants—for the position of Chief Justice,” De Castro said.