JUSTICE Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre 2nd will appear before the Committee on Justice of the House of Representatives at the resumption of its impeachment hearings against Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno on Tuesday.
Aguirre confirmed on Monday that he had received an invitation from the Committee to testify on allegations that the Chief Justice caused the delay of his request for the transfer of the cases against the Maute terror group to the Department of Justice (DOJ).
“I will attend on Tuesday,” said Aguirre in a text message but pointed out that his testimony would only focus on the issue.
The alleged manipulation and delay of the resolution of Aguirre’s request was among the basis of the impeachment complaint filed by lawyer Lorenzo Gadon against Sereno.
Records showed that as per Aguirre’s letter-request dated May 29, the Supreme Court assigned on June 6 Cagayan De Oro courts to handle the rebellion and other criminal cases against Maute members and sympathizers who laid siege to Marawi City.
But Sereno issued an appeal, citing security concerns forwarded by prosecutors assigned to conduct inquest proceedings and appear in the trial of cases and lack of adequate facilities inside Camp Evangelista, the headquarters of the Army’s 4th Infantry Division.
Aguirre’s request for Taguig courts to try and resolve the cases was finally granted during an en banc session on June 27 but which was only made public by the High Court on July 18.
“Sereno has been delaying the issuance and release of the resolution because she failed to get a majority vote on her desire to keep the Maute and similar cases in Cagayan de Oro City, to the detriment of the service,” the impeachment complaint stated.
“Indeed, the intentional delay on the part of respondent Sereno to issue and release the much-awaited resolution, only because she has lost in the vote, is another count of culpable violation of the Constitution,” it said.
Sereno denied the allegation, saying it was false and based on hearsay.
In her response filed with the Justice Committee, Sereno said the Court had previously noted that detaining the Maute members at Camp Bagong Diwa in Taguig, a few kilometers away from urban centers, “may have a substantial effect on the economy and on public safety.”
The Philippine National Police (PNP), however, supposedly committed to relocate the place of detention to a “less heavily congested and better secured police camp, and hence, the chief justice recommended the approval of the transfer to the Supreme Court en banc.”
“Clearly, any supposed ‘delay’ in the resolution of AM [Administrative Matter] 17-06-02-SC was due to the need to coordinate among the SC, the PNP, the AFP [Armed Forces of the Philippines], and the DOJ [Department of Justice] with respect to the security and logistics issues associated with the request for transfer of venue,” Sereno said.
Sereno also said she was the justice in charge of Aguirre’s request, contrary to Gadon’s claim that it was Associate Justice Noel Tijam. WILLIAM B. DEPASUPIL