Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno has asked the Supreme Court en banc to order The Manila Times to “show cause” why the broadsheet should not be cited for contempt for leaking “information” particularly on the case of Sen. Leila de Lima.
According to unimpeachable sources of the newspaper inside the tribunal, the issue of leakages was raised by SC Justice Marvic Leonen during deliberations last March 14, with participation of the two new SC justices–Samuel Martires and Noel Tijam.
The deliberations were held in connection with an internal memorandum of Leonen pushing for amendment to a substantive issue involving a petition of de Lima that supposedly had favored her claim that she can be charged with direct bribery, not over illegal drugs.
The memorandum was sent to SC Associate Justice Presbitero Velasco Jr.
Leonen admitted before the en banc that The Manila Times was trying to get his side on the internal memorandum that he had sent to Velasco.
He explained the associate justice was the ponente of the de Lima case, which was brought before the High Court.
“So as not to confine the case to a particular crime, may I suggest that in the first substantive issue, ‘violation of RA [Republic Act] 9165 be amended to read ‘offense.’ Petitioner [de Lima)]alleges that the acts [she was]charged [with]correspond to direct bribery,” Leonen said in the memorandum sent to Velasco.
At the time, the SC was tackling another “show cause” order whose subject was also the broadsheet over an article published on March 8, 2016 with the headline “Justices offered P50-million bribe to disqualify Poe.”
Poe referred to Sen. Grace Poe, then a candidate for President in the May 2016 elections.
Sereno supposedly butted in and asked if SC Justice Antonio Carpio wanted to add to it the “show cause order” regarding the alleged de Lima leaks .
Leonen objected to the suggestion of Sereno, saying he sees no reason for another “show cause” order to The Manila Times.
Several SC justices, according to the same sources, believe that there is nothing contemptuous about the stories of the newspaper for they fall within the constitutionally guaranteed “freedom of the press. “
Another source of The Manila Times said Sereno got irked with the broadsheet after it published the article “Sereno holds ‘hostage’ Duterte’s first SC pick” last March 10.
The story was about Sereno’s refusal to release the appointment papers of outgoing Sandiganbayan justice and now SC Justice Martires.
According to several SC Justices who talked to the newspaper on condition of anonymity, Sereno was “forcing” Martires to take his oath of office before her.
The appointment papers of Martires were released by Sereno belatedly after she learned that Martires wanted to be sworn in by President Rodrigo Duterte.