MANILA, Aug. 4 — The Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC) and the Vanguard of the Philippine Constitution Inc. (VPCI) on Friday asked the Supreme Court for some records that will boost the impeachment complaint filed against Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno.
In a two-page letter signed by VACC founding Chair Dante Jimenez of VACC and Atty. Eligio Mallari of VPCI addressed to the full Court, through SC clerk of court Atty. Felipa Anama asked for certified copies of at least seven documents of the high court that will prove the allegations in their complaint filed last Wednesday before the Office of the Secretary General at the House of Representatives.
Among the documents requested by the two groups is the Memorandum of Associate Justice Teresita Leonardo-De Castro questioning Sereno’s orders which lacked necessary approval of the collegial court as provided under the rules, including the appointment of a Philippine Judicial Academy (Philja) official and provision for travel allowances of her staff.
De Castro’s internal memorandum, which was reported in the media earlier, specifically assailed the appointment of Atty. Brenda Jay Mendoza as Philja chief of office for the Philippine Mediation Center, which she said violated their Administrative Order No. 33-2008 that required the appointment to be approved by the SC collegially.
De Castro also assailed Sereno’s grant of foreign travel allowance to members of her staff without required approval from the full court.
De Castro has questioned the “long delay” in the appointment in vacant key positions in SC pending before Sereno’s office, “which is prejudicial to the best interest of service.”
The VACC and VPCI also sought the SC records involving the SC’s revocation of Sereno’s order in 2012 to reopen a regional constitutional administrative office (RCAO) in Cebu without the collegial approval of the Court.
They likewise asked for Sereno’s memorandum for appointment of lawyer Solomon Lumba as her staff head and the subsequent letter of Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio withdrawing his signature in the said appointment over an internal issue.
The groups asked the SC to provide them copies of the documents pertinent to these issues against Sereno after they filed the impeachment complaint but no lawmaker came forward for the needed endorsement.
The request is seen to test the clout of Sereno among her colleagues in the 15-member Court, which should decide on the matter collegially.
Last Wednesday, Jimenez led the filing of the impeachment bid against Sereno on the grounds of culpable violation of the Constitution and betrayal of public trust.
However, the impeachment complaint does not have an endorsement from any House member.
A complaint filed by any citizen should get the endorsement of a sitting congressman before being referred to the House committee on justice for hearing.
Jimenez noted in the complaint that Sereno culpably violated the Constitution for the following reasons:
— issuing an administrative order creating the new Judiciary Decentralized Office (JDO) and re-opening the Regional Administration Office (RCAO) in Western Visayas in the absence of an authority from the Court en banc;
— violating the constitutional provision that appointive government officials shall not hold another public post unless provided for by law, in appointing Atty. Solomon Lumba as her staff head. Lumba was a faculty member of the University of the Philippines (UP) College of Law when he was appointed as Chief Justice staff head;
— appointing Atty. Brenda Jay Mendoza as Philippine Mediation Center Office Chief by mere memorandum which was not referred to the court en banc for its consideration;
— granting to members of her staff travel allowances for foreign travel charged to the Supreme Court funds without court en banc approval.
Sereno also betrayed public trust through “inexcusable negligence”, for sitting on the applications for the vacant posts in the Supreme Court.
Lawyer Larry Gadon was also set to file a separate impeachment complaint against Sereno but decided to first gather more support from congressmen for endorsement.
An impeachment complaint needs to get an endorsement of a sitting congressman before it could be referred to the House committee on justice for hearing.