Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Aranal-Sereno is in danger of violating the Internal Rules of the Supreme Court after she failed to inhibit herself from the case involving the latest power rate hike imposed by the Manila Electric Co. (Meralco), in which her mentor is the lawyer.
Sereno’s inaction became evident even if her former mentor and law partner, retired SC Associate Justice Florentino Feliciano is counseling Meralco.
Under the Internal Rules of the SC or Administrative Matter 10-4-20-SC members of the high tribunal are bound to inhibit themselves from cases being handled by previous partners, mentors or close kin.
Rule 8, Section 3C states that “when a member of the division, other than the member in charge of the case, is counsel, partner, or part of a law firm that is counsel to a case before the division, such member shall inhibit himself/herself unless said member is no longer partner or member of the law firm when it was engaged as counsel in the case and the member votes against the client of such firm.”
The more vital provision is: “In any event, the mandatory inhibition shall cease after the lapse of ten years from the resignation or withdrawal of the member from the law firm, unless the member personally handled the case when he/she was a partner or member of the law firm.”
Feliciano has tapped Sereno in the case of Piatco as his law partner, particularly as documentation lawyer and legal researcher. He also endorsed Sereno when she was still applying as Associate Justice of the high court.
Following the said provision, the 10-year ban is still applicable against Sereno since she separated her ties with Feliciano in the Piatco case was just in 2008.
Two of the Senior Justices in the SC, inhibit themselves each time their former law office is involved in cases pending before the high court.
Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio voluntarily inhibits himself in each and every case involving his former law office and law partners under the Carpio Villaraza Cruz Marcelo law office.
The same thing also with Associate Justice Arturo Bion who excuses himself whenever the Siguion Reyna law office is involved in a case pending before the SC.
Feliciano appeared and attended the preliminary conference set by the high court last Monday. The octogenarian Feliciano appeared at the conference headed by Associate Justice Marvic Leonen, the ponente of the case.