Sereno asks SC for more time to explain why she should not be sanctioned, disbarred

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, May 25) Ousted Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno has asked the Supreme Court to extend the 10-day period for her to explain why she should not be sanctioned, or even disbarred for violating a court rule.

Sereno requested for 15 more days, or until June 9, to do so, her spokesperson, Josa Deinla told CNN Philippines in a text message. The deadline was set to lapse Friday.

In a three-page motion for extension, Sereno's camp said their response is already being drafted, but "additional time is needed to verify each of the statements which served as the basis for the show cause order."

In its historic May 11 ruling unseating the chief justice, the Supreme Court said Sereno may be disbarred for violating the sub judice rule when she discussed her pending ouster case in public.

"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 High Court pointed out that Sereno publicly discussed the quo warranto petition filed against her and accused six associate justices of being "biased" against her. All the justices refused to inhibit from the case and voted against her.

The quo warranto petition, a legal proceeding where an individual's right to hold office is challenged, was filed by Solicitor General Jose Calida. He asked the High Court to invalidate Sereno's 2012 appointment as top magistrate over alleged non-filing of her statements of assets, liabilities, and net worth (SALNs). The petition was granted by the Supreme Court, making Sereno the first impeachable official to be ousted without a Senate trial.

She was given 10 days to respond to the show cause order and explain why she should not be sanctioned. She also has 15 days, or until June 1, to appeal the ouster ruling.

The Code of Professional Responsibility states, "A lawyer shall not make public statements in the media regarding a pending case tending to arouse public opinion for or against a party."

According to the Code of Judicial Conduct, "Judges shall not knowingly, while a proceeding is before or could come before them, make any comment that might reasonably be expected to affect the outcome of such proceeding or impair the manifest fairness of the process. Nor shall judges make any comment in public or otherwise that might affect the fair trial of any person or issue."