After a two-week leave of absence, Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno made herself scarce again, this time indefinitely.
The Manila Times learned that Sereno had issued Special Order 2120 dated July 31, 2015, that designated Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio as acting Chief Justice.
“In view of the leave of absence of the undersigned [Sereno], Senior Associate Justice Antonio T. Carpio is designated as acting Chief Justice, with authority to exercise the powers and prerogatives of and pertaining to the position of Chief Justice on matters that cannot wait for the Chief Justice, effective August 3, 2015, until the undersigned reports back to work,” the special order read.
Many SC justices supposedly were surprised at the Chief Justice taking another leave of absence right after her wellness leave.
A wellness leave is given to justices for their executive check-up or other medical issues.
The SC magistrates also supposedly suspected that the Torre de Manila case was behind Sereno’s latest leave of absence.
Oral arguments on the case will be heard for two straight weeks by the SC en banc with Carpio sitting as presiding officer.
A source of The Manila Times said Sereno’s indefinite leave would justify her skipping the oral arguments, having been accused of bias for DMCI Inc., owner of the condominium.
Her simply inhibiting from the case, according to the source, would have put to rest allegation that she was “lawyering” for DMCI, former employer of her husband Mario Jose Sereno.
Mario was connected with Dacon Corp., a Consunji-owned company, but resigned from Dacon almost 26 years ago, in July 1989.
It was his wife herself who introduced the idea of giving compensation to DMCI Inc., if the government ordered demolition of the 46-story Torre de Manila, partly for being an eyesore of a backdrop for the Rizal monument in Manila’s Rizal Park (Luneta).
The Manila Times source said the SC justices do not believe that the Chief Justice is really sick since she was seen at the House of Representatives where President Benigno Aquino 3rd delivered his sixth and final the State of the Nation Address last July 27.
Sereno was also seen at a recent party for Raul Pangalangan, who had been elected as judge of the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague, The Netherlands.
The ICC prosecutes genocide and war crimes.