In exchange for her declaring “not unconstitutional” the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) between the Philippines and the United States, Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno wants a senior lawyer from her office appointed as a Sandiganbayan justice, according to a well-placed source of The Manila Times in the Supreme Court (SC).
The source identified the legal staff as Zaldy Trespeses.
Sereno was the ponente of the EDCA case before the High Court.
Declaring EDCA constitutional, the source said over the weekend, was to have been made in the first week of November so that it could be presented as a “gift” by President Benigno Aquino 3rd to US President Barack Obama ahead of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) summit later in the month that the American leader and 20 other heads of state were expected to attend.
An 82-page draft decision on the agreement was circulated by Sereno among the14 SC associate justices days before the APEC summit.
The source quoted an excerpt from the decision, “As it is, EDCA is not constitutionally infirm. As an executive agreement, it remains consistent with existing laws and treaties that it purports to implement.”
“WHEREFORE, for the foregoing reasons, we hereby DISMISS the petitions,” the Sereno draft decision also read, referring to appeals to declare EDCA unconstitutional.
Trespeses was criticized by some SC justices for “having the face” to apply for the Sandiganbayan position even without any “deep credentials,” saying the only reason he was shortlisted was that his boss is Sereno, also the chairman of the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC).
The Manila Times was able to obtain a copy of the Personal Data Sheet of the senior lawyer and the document states that he is a “law practitioner.”
It was learned the Chief Justice is planning to appoint her staff to vital positions in the judiciary for fear that she will be “impeached” from her post once President Benigno Aquino 3rd steps down from office in 2016.
Sereno has appointed lawyer Renelie Mayuga as Judicial Reform Program administrator in the Program Management Office (PMO).
Under Memorandum Order 37-2015 dated October 15, 2015, she was able to push for the appointment of Mayuga as PMO head replacing Judge Geraldine Faith Econg, who was transferred by the Chief Justice to the Philippine Mediation Center
Mayuga was the lone applicant for the post.
The Manila Times also received information from a court insider that Sereno’s chief of staff, lawyer Maria Lourdes Oliveros, will vie for the vacant position of Assistant Court Administrator to replace lawyer Thelma Bahia, who was promoted as Deputy Court Administrator.
The Manila Times broke the story that the Supeme Court was poised to declare EDCA constitutional.
The SC source said an overwhelming majority of the justices are inclined to declare EDCA constitutional as an executive agreement.