SC justices: Sereno's failure to submit SALN should have disqualified her application as CJ

Story updated to include statement of Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno's camp.

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, February 12) — Two Supreme Court justices said embattled Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno should not have been included in the list of nominees to head the judiciary over noncompliance to a requirement in public office.

Associate Justices Teresita de Castro, who was also one of the nominees for chief justice, said the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) committed a "grave injustice" to other applicants when they accepted her application even after she failed to submit her Statement of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth (SALN).

"(Sereno) should not have even be interviewed. There was grave injustice done to all the applicants because of what they did to Sereno at that time. There was not even substantial compliance. There is noncompliance absolutely," De Castro said in the House Justice Committee hearing on Monday.

Associate Justice Diosdado Peralta, who was the former JBC en banc chair, said he was not informed Sereno did not submit her SALN when she applied for chief justice.

Peralta added, he could have objected to Sereno's application when he knew she did not submit her SALN.

He also said Sereno's appointment could be declared void, as she should instead be considered a de facto officer.

JBC Executive Director Annaliza Ty-Capacite, however, said Sereno sent a letter to the JBC saying she cannot submit her SALN as she no longer has access to the documents.

She added because many applicants failed to submit all of their SALNs, then congressional representative to the JBC Senator Francis Escudero suggested to relax the rule and to allow substantial compliance.

Capacite said Sereno submitted three SALNs, covering 2009, 2010, and 2011, which they already considered substantial.

Capacite added one of the JBC ex-officio members said there should at least be substantial compliance, or in Sereno's case, an attempt to submit the SALN, for her inclusion in the JBC shortlist.

Before assuming the Chief Justice post in 2012, Sereno taught at the University of the Philippines (UP) College of Law from 1986 to 2006.

Applicants to the post are required to submit their SALN for the past decade, in this case from 2002 to 2011.

In past hearings, UP said they only have the 2002 SALN of Sereno.

"The submission of SALN is very important. The JBC said applicants with incomplete, out-of-date documentary requirements will not be considered for nomination," De Castro said.

The associate justice added, the JBC became strict after Sereno's predecessor, late Chief Justice Renato Corona, was impeached for failure to declare his foreign bank accounts.

Sereno camp: Peralta had an axe to grind vs. Sereno

In a statement, Sereno's camp maintained the Chief Justice complied with all the requirements when she applied for the top judicial post.

Jojo Lacanilao, one of Sereno's spokespersons, said Justice Peralta had an "axe to grind" against Sereno, because his wife, Court of Appeals (CA) Associate Justice Audrey Peralta, was excluded from the shortlist of nominees for CA Presiding Justice submitted by the JBC to President Rodrigo Duterte.

"Justice Peralta should have some delicadeza in not allowing personal disappointments to color his testimonies before the Justice Committee," Lacanilao said.

Peralta's wife failed to submit her validated NBI clearance, blood test, and sugar count on time.

Sereno is currently the ex-officio chair of the JBC.

CNN Philippines' Joyce Ilas and Yvette Morales contributed to this report.