CHIEF Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno on Saturday sought the inhibition of a Supreme Court magistrate whom she accused of faith-shaming her during the April 10 oral arguments on the quo warranto petition filed against her by Solicitor General Jose Calida.
In a pleading filed with the Supreme Court, Sereno said Associate Justice Samuel Martires showed actual bias against her after he insinuated that her pervasive faith in God could be a sign of mental illness.
“The Chief Justice, with due respect, has reasonable grounds to believe that the Hon. Associate Justice Samuel R. Martires has manifested actual bias against her which should disqualify him from participating in these proceedings,” Sereno said, citing Canon 3, Section 5(a) of the New Code Of Judicial Conduct for the Philippine Judiciary.
This brings to six the total number of SC magistrates the Chief Justice wants to inhibit from her quo warranto case.
Earlier, Sereno also asked for the recusal of Associate Justices Teresita Leonardo de Castro, Diosdado Peralta, Lucas Bersamin, Francis Jardeleza and Noel Tijam.
All six justices readily and willingly testified against Sereno in the impeachment proceeding in the House of Representatives and actively participated in the so-called “Red Monday” protest in the SC that called for her resignation.
During the oral arguments, Martires appeared to have made insinuations questioning Sereno’s “mental” or “psychological” fitness on the basis of her belief that God is the “source of everything in [her] life.” This, despite the fact that the Chief Justice’s mental or psychological fitness was not an issue raised at all in Calida’s petition.
Sereno took exception to the following questions propounded by Martires to Calida during the oral arguments: “Would you agree it (is) a mental illness when a person always invokes God as the source of his strength? The source of happiness? The source of everything in life? Is that mental illness?”
Martires also asked Calida if he would agree that the psychiatrist made a wrong evaluation with respect to the psychiatric report on the Chief Justice, to which the Solicitor General replied: “Unfortunately, I have not read the psychiatric report yet, Your Honor.”
The Chief Justice viewed the utterances of Martires as a suggestion that she suffered from some mental or psychological illness because of her pervasive belief in God, and that such position was “purely personal” to him.
“With due respect, it appears that Justice Martires has formed an opinion on the competence of Respondent [Sereno] to serve as Chief Justice on some basis other than what he learned from his participation in this case. His objectivity and impartiality therefore appears to have been impaired,” she added.
Sereno said the continued participation of Martires in the case would violate her constitutional right to due process guaranteed under Article III, Section 1 of the 1987 Constitution.
Due process of law requires a hearing before an impartial and disinterested tribunal and that every litigant is entitled to nothing less than the cold neutrality of an impartial judge.
In the same pleading, Sereno asked the SC en banc to resolve the separate motions to inhibit she had filed without the participation of the challenged six justices, and do it before it renders its decision on the quo warranto petition.
Sereno argued that the participation of the six justices in the deliberations on the matter of their disqualification would not advance the cause of justice, but would instead create a perception, rightly or wrongly, that there has been “manifest [un]fairness in the process.”
The inhibition of the challenged justices, she said, is the best way to prove that they are not personally invested in the outcome of the case.
“It is not wrong to expect that their presence, the [motions for inhibition] will not prosper merely because of the numerical strength of the justices whose competence is being challenged,” Sereno said, noting that the so-called “Biased 6” constituted a strong plurality, a major bloc in a collegial court of 14 members.
She said prudence dictated that the six magistrates inhibit from the case “out of delicadeza and out of the great public necessity that this Honorable Court be perceived as a neutral body.”
“It is well-settled that a judge should not only be impartial, he must also appear impartial, for appearance is an essential manifestation of reality. Like Ceasar’s wife, a judge must not only be pure but beyond suspicion,” Sereno pointed out.
“Second only to the duty of rendering a just decision, is the duty of doing it in a manner that will not arouse any suspicion as to its fairness and the integrity of the Judge,” she added.