SC allows justices, personnel to testify in Sereno impeach hearing

By on November 29, 2017

Supreme Court of the Philippines (Photo: Philippine News Agency)
Supreme Court of the Philippines (Photo: Philippine News Agency)

MANILA — The Supreme Court (SC) on Tuesday allowed its employees as well some Associate Justices to appear before the House justice committee to testify in the impeachment proceedings against Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno.

SC spokesman Theodore Te, in a briefing, announced the directive was issued following Tuesday’s regular en banc session of the magistrates.

The SC unanimously voted to allow the magistrates and employees to appear in connection with the invitation of the House justice committee on the matter.

Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio presided over the en banc deliberations after Sereno decided to inhibit being the one involved on the matter.

Two magistrates namely Associate Justices Teresita Leonardo-De Castro and Noel Tijam have manifested that they want to accept the invitation from the House justice committee to appear in the hearing.

“Those who are invited to testify on administrative matters may do so if they wish. The Court is not requiring them but the Court is granting them clearance if they so wish to appear and testify on administrative matters,” Te told reporters during the press briefing held at Supreme Court.

Aside from De Castro and Tijam, also invited by the House justice committee to appear during the impeachment hearing against Sereno were Te, retired SC Justice Arturo Brion, Court Administrator Jose Midas Marquez, SC en banc Clerk of Court Felipa Anama and Deputy Clerk of Court Lani Papa.

Te explained that on adjudicative matters or matters involving decision of cases which would include deliberations of cases, the Court allowed only De Castro to appear and testify before the House justice committee and only in relation to three matters.

“On adjudicative matters, meaning matters that go into the decision of cases, which would include deliberation of cases, only Justice Teresita De Castro has been authorized to appear and testify before the House committee on justice and only in relation to three matters,” he added.

De Castro is allowed by the Court to discuss the exchange of communications on the issuance of the temporary restraining order in the senior citizens case between herself and Sereno.

She can also testify on the merits of the decision she penned that declared unconstitutional the clustering of shortlisted nominees made by the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) last year in connection with the vacancies in the Sandiganbayan.

De Castro has also been authorized by the Court to discuss the merits of her separate concurring opinion in the August 2014 ruling that voided the JBC’s decision not to include the name of then Solicitor General Francis Jardeleza on the shortlist of nominees for SC justice post after Sereno raised an integrity issue against him.

Te said De Castro is barred from discussing the deliberations of the Court on those three cases.

With regard to Jardeleza’s case, Te said the SC en banc authorized De Castro “to discuss the merits of her separate concurring opinion and again not the deliberation that went into the decision as well as her concurring opinion.”

De Castro earlier said she needed to seek clearance from SC en banc first before she could attend the hearing.

De Castro came into the picture after lawyer Larry Gadon cited media reports in his complaint that she had accused Sereno of falsifying the stay order preventing the Commission on Elections (Comelec) from proclaiming the five remaining winners of the party-list race in the May 2013 polls.

Gadon, the complainant in the case, said last week De Castro is the source of some information he stated in his complaint, particularly the internal administrative matters.

Gadon said he got the information from De Castro through a common “friend,” whom he identified as Manila Times reporter Jomar Canlas.

De Castro denied Gadon’s claim, saying that she has “never released to Jomar Canlas any information, report, or document regarding the work of the Supreme Court.”

Meanwhile, the two remaining grounds for impeachment, specifically betrayal of public trust and other high crimes will be tackled by the justice committee on December 4, 5, and 6.

The committee, after the deliberations, would then vote on probable cause and formulate the articles of impeachment afterward.