Five justices refuse to inhibit from Sereno ouster proceedings

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, April 10) — Five associate justices have rejected Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno's petition for them to inhibit from hearing the case to oust her.

Associate Justices Diosdado Peralta, Lucas Bersamin, Francis Jardeleza, Noel Tijam, and Teresita de Castro attended the Supreme Court's oral arguments on the quo warranto petition against Sereno Tuesday.

"All the motions for inhibition were denied for lack of merit," Acting Chief Justice Antonio Carpio said.

Sereno earlier sought the inhibition of her five colleagues from hearing the case, saying they all "manifested actual bias" against her.

These magistrates testified against Sereno before the impeachment hearings conducted by the House Committee on Justice.

Sereno's camp on Tuesday reiterated its call for the justices to inhibit.

"Kung may lima na hindi mag-iinhibit, mahihirapan po talaga na magkaroon ng fairness at justice (If the five justices won't inhibit, it would be hard to have fairness and justice)," Jojo Lacanilao, one of Sereno's spokespersons, told CNN Philippines' Balitaan.

The quo warranto, a legal proceeding where an individual's right to hold office is challenged, was filed by the government's top lawyer, Solicitor General Jose Calida. He wants the Supreme Court to void Sereno's appointment as chief justice over her alleged failure to file Statements of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth (SALNs) for 10 years, before she applied for the Chief Justice post in 2012.

The embattled chief justice, who has been on leave at the request of her colleagues, said the motions she filed in relation to her quo warranto case are "without prejudice" to her contention that the petition should be dismissed.

Sereno has said impeachment is the only way to remove a chief justice from office, asking lawmakers to "give me my day in the Senate impeachment court."

Alleged violations in her SALNs fom part of the articles of impeachment against Sereno.

House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez on Monday said this will be tackled and voted by the plenary when Congress resumes session on May 15. His statement comes after President Rodrigo Duterte ordered the fast-tracking of the impeachment, calling Sereno her enemy.

Duterte earlier said he has no hand in efforts to oust Sereno either through quo warranto or impeachment.

If at least one-third of the members of the House of Representatives vote to impeach Sereno, the complaint would go to trial at the Senate.

The Senate, convening as an impeachment court, will need a two-thirds vote or 16 of 23 senators to convict the Chief Justice.

CNN Philippines' Anjo Alimario contributed to this report.