A SUPREME Court justice claimed on Wednesday that Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno “attempted” to circumvent en banc rules six years ago when she issued an administrative order on the launch of an office in Central Visayas (Region 7) without consulting the body.
Testifying at Sereno’s impeachment hearing before the Justice Committee of the House of Representatives, Associate Justice Teresita de Castro said she was “taken aback” when she and her colleagues received an invitation to the reopening of the Regional Court Administration Office in Region 7 (RCAO 7) to be held in Radisson Blu hotel in Cebu City on November 29, 2012.
De Castro said the invitation prompted her to look deeper and discovered that what Sereno did was to create a Judiciary Decentralized Office (JDO) instead of an RCAO through Administrative Order 175-2012.
“Kapag binasa nyo yung administrative order, she deliberately omitted any reference to the RCAO. Misleading ang sinulat ng kanyang chief of staff na ire-reopen ang RCAO. But there is no such RCAO that was launched by the CJ,” de Castro said.
(When you read the administrative order, she deliberately omitted any reference to RCAO. What her chief of staff wrote about reopening the RCAO was misleading.)
De Castro said what was launched was not the RCAO but the JDO, which was a new office and a clear violation of the Constitution because the Chief Justice was not mandated to create any office.
“Bago yung admininstrative order, walang opisina. Misleading yung imbitasyon na ipinadala sa amin. Akala nga namin, RCAO,” de Castro said.
(The administrative order was new. There was no office. The invitation that was sent to us was misleading. We thought it was RCAO.)
De Castro said that Sereno even named Geraldine Faith Econg, the court’s head of the program management office, as head of RCAO-7.
De Castro added that if the RCAO was to be reopened, “she [Sereno] can’t do it herself unless there’s delegation of power from the en banc.”
De Catsro said she then moved for the issue to be deliberated en banc where, she claimed, many justices agreed with her in disputing Sereno’s order.
After the en banc meeting, De Castro said Sereno vowed to make changes in the controversial administration order.
De Castro said that when she followed up on the amendments, what the clerk of court had presented to her was a “ratified” version of the AO.
She said that since then Sereno has not responded to any of her queries.
The RCAO directive was one of the issues complainant Larry Gadon raised against Sereno whom he accused of violating the Constitution, betraying public trust and corruption. RALPH EDWIN U. VILLANUEVA
The House panel is seeking to find probable cause on the impeachment complaint filed by Atty. Larry Gadon against Sereno.
Gadon accused Sereno of committing culpable violation of the Constitution by making it appear that the Supreme Court en banc ratified her unliateral act of reviving the RCAO-7, when the consensus of the Court was to actually oppose it.
As presented by de Castro in a Powerpoint presentation, Sereno issued the administrative order JDO for the Seventh Judicial Region by issuing Administrative Order no. 175-2012 and not an RCAO.
The AO states that the JDO is effective immediately and until revoked by the Chief Justice as compared to the RCAO Pilot decentralized unit to be implemented over a one-year period.
Sereno then designated as JDO head Geraldine Econg, who was the Program Management Office (PMO) Head and not an official of the Office of the Court Administrator.
According to the Administrative Matter 06-11-09, the official functions in the Pilot RCAO are vested in the Court Administrator, the Regional Court Administrator, the Deputy Regional Court Administrator, the Assistant Regional Court Administrator and the Oversight Committee.
In Sereno’s AO 175-2012, the official functions are solely vested in the Head of the JDO.
“Hindi po, ang ginawa nya yung functions na dapat sa mga officers ng RCAO, binigay nya sa JDO. She did not specify the functions, what she stated in the AO that the Head of the JDO will perform the functions of intended of the officers of the RCAO,” de Castro said.
“Kung makikita nyo, she omitted to mention anything about the RCAO. She mentioned Administrative Matter 06-11-09, [pero]she never mentioned anything about the RCAO. She made it appear that she is implementing the en banc resolution that actually she is not complying by the measure,” de Castro said.
De Castro added that Sereno could not make the RCAO-7 permanent since it was merely a pilot project and an ad hoc body.