By Rey Panaligan
The Supreme Court (SC) has allowed its justices and court officials to appear and testify before the House committee hearing the impeachment complaint against Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno.
Those invited by the House Committee on Justice were Associate Justices Teresita J. Leonardo de Castro and Noel G. Tijam, Court Administrator Jose Midas P. Marquez, Clerk of Court Felipe Anama, Spokesperson Theodore O. Te, and chief judicial staff officer Charlotte Labayani. Retired SC Associate Justice Arturo D. Brion was also invited.
In an en banc ruling, the SC said that “as far as the invitation is for testimony on administrative matters, any official of the Supreme Court who is invited may appear and give testimony if he/she so wishes.”
But it said that “as far as the invitation is for testimony on adjudication, only Associate Justice Teresita J. Leonardo-De Castro is authorized to testify.”
Justice De Castro’s testimony is limited on three issues, namely:
- “In relation to G.R. No. 206844-45 (Coalition of Association of Senior Citizens in the Philippines Party List v. Commission on Elections), only on the issuance of the Temporary Restraining Order in these consolidated cases and the exchange of communications between herself and the Chief Justice, but not on the deliberations of the Court that led to the issuance thereof.
- “In relation to G.R. No. 224302 (Hon. Philip Aguinaldo, et al. v. President Benigno S. Aquino III), only on the merits of her ponencia, but not on the deliberations of the Court in this case.
- “In relation to G.R. No. 23181 (Francis H. Jardeleza v. Chief Justice Maria Lourdes P. A. Sereno, et al.), only on the merits of her separate concurring opinion, but not on the deliberations of the Court in this case.”
Among other alleged impeachable charges, Sereno was accused of not declaring her earnings as a private lawyer before her appointment to the SC.
She was also charged with culpable violation of the Constitution and betrayal of public trust.
Last August, the SC allowed the release of court records and documents needed by two groups which sought Sereno’s impeachment.
Official copies of the court records and documents were sought by the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC) and the Vanguard of the Philippine Constitution, Inc. (VPCI).
Sought by the two groups, in their letter to the SC, were copies of the following documents:
- En Banc Resolution in A.M. No. 12-11-9-SC supposedly adopted on November 27, 2012.
- Subsequent En Banc Resolution recalling the aforementioned resolution.
- Honorable Chief Justice Maria Lourdes P. A. Sereno’s Memorandum on the appointment of Atty. Solomon F. Lumba as Chief Justice Staff Head II.
- Honorable Senior Justice Antonio Carpio’s Letter on the withdrawal of his signature in the appointment of Atty. Solomon F. Lumba as Chief Justice Staff Head II.
- Memorandum to the Court En Banc dated December 2012 of Honorable Justice Teresita Leonardo-De Castro, seeking the recall of Honorable Chief Justice Maria Lourdes P.A. Sereno’s administrative order creating the new Judiciary Decentralized Office (JDO) and re-opening the Regional Court Administration Office (RCAO) in Region VII.
- En Banc Resolution creating the Needs Assessment Committee to determine the need to decentralize the functions of the Supreme Court in support of its power of administrative supervision over lower courts.
- Memorandum to the Court En Banc dated July 10, 2017, of Honorable Justice Teresita Leonardo-De Castro calling for a review of Honorable Chief Justice Maria Lourdes P.A. Sereno’s administrative orders re “Appointment of Atty. Brenda Jay Mendoza in June 2016 as chief of the Philippine Mediation Center under the Philippine Judicial Academy’, “Frequent foreign travels and grant of allowance to Atty. Maria Lourdes Oliveros and other OCJ staff purportedly with funding support from the host organizers of the travel as approved by the Chief Justice and two Division chairpersons”, and “Delays in filling up the posts of Supreme Court deputy clerk of court, chief attorney, and two positions for assistant court administrator”, which were supposedly issued without the approval of the Court En Banc.
SC Spokesman Te said that High Court “granted the release of items 1 to 6 in the letter. Item No. 7, referring to the Memorandum dated July 10, 2017, remains a matter that is being internally deliberated by the Court and, thus, cannot be released until the matter is resolved by the Court En Banc.”
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