BAGUIO CITY, Philippines — Can one’s Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth attest to an individual’s integrity?
Associate Justice Marvic Leonen on Tuesday explored the “integrity test” raised by Solicitor General Jose Calida in his ouster petition against Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno.
Calida said Sereno failed the integrity test as she submitted only three SALNs when she applied for the chief justice position in 2012.
During his interpellation, Leonen asked Sereno about when the Judicial and Bar Council started requiring applicants to submit their SALNs.
READ: Sereno, SC justice in heated exchange
The JBC is constitutionally mandated to screen applicants for the judiciary and create a shortlist of candidates that will be submitted to the president, who holds the authority to appoint.
Sereno said the JBC only included the SALN submission after the ouster of the late Chief Justice Reynato Corona who was impeached due to unexplained wealth.
She stressed that in the 2010 publication of the associate justice opening, applicants were not required to submit any of their SALNs.
Those vying for an associate justice seat need only submit two SALNs, Leonen said.
“The JBC has not been consistent in relation with the requirement of SALN, is that not correct?” Leonen said, adding “But they are consistent in trying to find out if a person can be predictably one with integrity.”
The justice said that the SALN—submitted annually— was helpful “to catch” a person who has accumulated unexplained wealth over one’s years in public service.
READ: Sereno, De Castro clash at ouster hearing
Leonen asked Sereno whether it could have been possible that she committed indirect bribery, a violation of the anti-graft law or theft during the years she allegedly failed to submit her SALNs.
The chief justice answered in the negative.
READ: Sereno maintains compliance with SALN submission requirements
“It is not by itself the measure of integrity because if it is a measure of integrity, then, God help us, because I think the measure of integrity is not to be swayed from pressure from yellow or red or black or any political color,” Leonen added.
“If our measure of integrity is only a piece of paper, then God help us,” Leonen also said.
The end of Leonen’s interpellation was greeted by applause from the session hall, but the audience was later asked by Acting Chief Justice Antonio Carpio to refrain from clapping as the court is in session.
The SC, led by Carpio, wrapped up the oral arguments after six hours.
The two parties were required to submit their respective memorandum on April 20, after which the case would be deemed submitted for resolution.
READ: Five justices refuse to inhibit from ouster petition against Sereno