Chief Justice Lourdes Sereno again showed her bias for DMCI, owner of the Torre de Manila condominium tagged as the “national photobomber” at the Rizal shrine by raising the issue of paying “just compensation” to be given the real estate company if the controversial building is demolished.
This came to light after The Manila Times got hold of Sereno’s letter to Associate Justice Francis Jardeleza, the ponente of the case, where she enumerated “issues” that should be tackled by the court in its en banc deliberations and during oral arguments on the case.
“The Chief Justice requests the following issues to be kindly included in the advisory: Procedural; 1. What is the legal basis for the remedies sought by petitioner;* 2. Whether or not the compulsory condemnation, or possible expropriation, of the building is a matter of judicial prerogative that this court must adjudicate or a matter to be resolved in a dialogue amongst relevant national and local agencies of the government,” Sereno said.
“What is the total damage to be sustained by private respondents [DMCI], including the workers, the subcontractors, the investors, and the buyers of the project, in case the building is demolished?” she added.
Sereno even put a footnote quoting “Article III, Section 9 of the 1987 Constitution [as it provides]that private property shall not be taken for public use without just compensation.”
The document, dated June 23, 2015, bore the marginal note “By Authority of the Chief Justice” and was signed by Sereno’s staff head, Uribe Crisostomo.
Supreme Court sources criticized the Chief Justice for displaying her partiality to DMCI.
Sereno earlier turned down proposals that she inhibit from the case because her husband, Mario Jose Sereno, was once connected with Dacon Corp., a company also owned by the Consunjis. David Consunji is the chairman of DMCI.
“Kapit-tuko si Meilou [nickname of Sereno]sa Torre de Manila case. Ayaw na ngang mag-inhibit sa case dahil sa mister niya, eto naman ngayon at gusto agad ipasok ang idea na bigyan ng just compensation ang DMCI [Meilou is clinging to the case. She doesn’t want to inhibit because of her husband, now she even wants DMCI to get just compensation],” a source told The Manila Times.
Another SC source questioned Sereno’s move to include in the advisory the payment of “just compensation” to DMCI despite the fact that the property shall not be taken for “public use.”
“How can there be an expropriation issue, the property is absolutely not for public use. If ever there will be payment of just compensation, [that case)]should be with the lower court, not with the Supreme Court,” the SC insider said.
The issue of just compensation was not mentioned in the advisories of Jardeleza and Associate Justice Bienvenido Reyes, who have listed down issues that should be tackled during the oral arguments set for July 21.
Solicitor General Florin Hilbay, however, asked the SC to give him until August 15 to submit his position paper and “another 30 days from July 21 to prepare for the oral arguments.”
Last month, the High Court stopped DMCI Project Developers Inc. from continuing with the construction of the 46-story Torre de Manila as it upheld a request for a temporary restraining order (TRO) of the Order of the Knights of Rizal.
Eight justices voted to issue a TRO—Presbitero Velasco, Arturo Brion, Teresita Leonardo-de Castro, Lucas Bersamin, Martin Villarama, Jose Mendoza, Estela Bernabe and Jardeleza.
Those who opposed the issuance of a TRO were Sereno and Associate Justices Reyes, Antonio Carpio, Mariano del Castillo and Jose Perez.
Justice Diosdado Peralta and Marvic Leonen were on leave when the voting was held.