CHIEF Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno failed to defend herself from a colleague’s attacks over charges that she bungled the issuance of a temporary restraining order (TRO) that halted the Commission on Elections (Comelec) from further proclaiming party-list poll winners.
During Tuesday’s resumption of the High Court’s en banc session, Sereno endured a harsh tongue-lashing from Justice Teresita Leonardo-De Castro, the original ponente of the “tampered” TRO, according to a court insider.
De Castro, at one point, slammed Sereno for being “tardy” and for not coordinating her actions with her.
“The problem with you was you reported late. You arrived at 3 p.m. kaya hindi mo naaktuhan ang recommendation ko,” a highly-reliable source quoted De Castro as telling the Chief Magistrate during the closed door en banc deliberations.
The “scolding” lasted for a while until the Tribunal decided to defer the discussions for a day.
Several justices had threatened to confront Sereno over the controversial TRO.
On Tuesday, The Manila Times reported that Sereno admitted that she tinkered with de Castro’s draft ruling.
The other justices of the court disapprove of Sereno’s “unilateral” action and have threatened to revoke the order.
The Times got hold of a copy of Sereno’s letter to De Castro where the Chief Justice admitted that she deliberately changed the recommendation made by the latter who was the designated ponente of the TRO.
During the “confrontation,” the source said De Castro chastised the Chief Magistrate for issuing an “erroneous” resolution that was far from the former’s recommendation and for not acting on it “on time.”
Sereno did not counter De Castro’s tirades. She “bowed down” while being chastised, the source said.
De Castro was incensed when Sereno, on her own, changed the content of the ponencia on the case of the Senior Citizen party-list that was previously disqualified by the Commission on Elections (Comeelc) for illegally adopting a term-sharing scheme among two separate sets of officers.
Instead of granting the relief being sought by the party-list group, Sereno issued a blanket TRO stopping the Comelec from making further proclamations, thus, benefiting other groups that were not party to the case.
De Castro noted that for being late for work on May 28, Sereno issued the TRO without consulting De Castro.
“Why did you not consult me? I am in my office the whole day and why did you consult Justice [Bienvenido] Reyes [and not me]?” De Castro asked Sereno.
The Times was informed that De Castro finished her draft recommendation Monday last week but Sereno was already out of her office.
De Castro submitted the draft recommendation early Tuesday morning (May 28), but it was not acted upon because Sereno arrived late in the afternoon.
It was only on May 29 when Sereno released the resolution without giving copies to the other justices. The order also deviated from the De Castro draft.
Sereno admitted that she arrived late but countered that the rollo (documents) were scanned and were sent to her by her staff.
De Castro also criticized Sereno for issuing an erroneous resolution. She said what was involved in the case was the relief being sought by Senior Citizen party-list.
“What is involved ‘yun lang ang dapat pag-usapan, Your resolution is ultra vires [invalid and beyond her powers],” she said.
Sereno admitted that she changed the De Castro draft because what was in her mind back then was to issue a “preventive measure” for the remaining five party-list seats.
The Court en banc decided to continue with the deliberations this morning. It called for a special en banc session at 9 a.m.
The en banc also asked De Castro and Reyes to submit their respective draft resolutions for the body’s final disposition.
The justices will decide whether or not they will revoke the TRO of Sereno and adopt the recommendation that the tribunal issue a Status Quo Ante Order instead.
“A SQAO is to preserve the rights of the petitioner while a TRO seeks to prevent the Comelec from acting,” the source said.