NEWLY-APPOINTED Sandiganbayan Presiding Justice Amparo Cabotaje-Tang has elevated her “peculiar” problem in the anti-graft court following the refusal of the justices to give up their chairmanships for her.
Tang, the most junior justice of the Sandiganbayan, asked Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno to step into her case.
While Tang and Sereno are the heads of their respective courts, they are the most junior magistrates when they were appointed by President Benigno Aquino 3rd. Tang ranked number 15 out of 15 Sandiganbayan justices while Sereno ranked number 14 out of the 15 SC Justices when they were appointed.
In a five-page letter dated Oct.10, 2013 addressed to Sereno that, Tang sought the guidance of the chief magistrate concerning her situation.
She made her “urgent plea” to Sereno after Associate Justice Jose Hernandez refused to give up chairmanship of the Third Division.
Tang, who was appointed as head of the Sandiganbayan on October 1, maintained that Hernandez should vacate his post so that she can assume the chairmanship of the Third Division, which was headed by former justice Francisco Villaruz.
Hernandez, a senior magistrate, maintained that he has become permanent chairman of the division, invoking Section 5(a), Rule 2 of the Revised Internal Rules of the anti-graft tribunal.
But Tang cited another provision of the Internal Rules of the Sandiganbayan to contradict Hernandez’s claim.
“The undersigned respectfully submits the view that as the new Presiding Justice, she now ranks the most senior in the Sandiganbayan,” she said in her letter to Sereno.
“As such, she is logically entitled to assume the chairmanship of the division where the most recent vacancy occurred, i.e., the Third Division. Lawful entitlement to the chairmanship of a division is based on seniority in rank, not in the order of precedence of appointment to the court.”
Cabotaje-Tang cited Section 1(b) of the anti-graft court’s Rules which states that “The Presiding Justice shall enjoy precedence over the other members of the Sandiganbayan in all official functions. The associate justices shall have precedence according to the order of their appointments.”