Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno was confronted by magistrates of the Supreme Court (SC) on her decision to strip the justices of their right to vote and choose the top nominees for the position vacated by Associate Justice Roberto Abad who retired in May.
During the regular en banc session on Tuesday, Associate Justice Teresita Leonardo-de Castro assailed Sereno’s letter, which said “several justices” of the High Court requested that they do away with the traditional voting on nominees.
“To accommodate the request of several justices that voting no longer be conducted among the candidates, the members of the court with respect to the candidates for associate justice (vice Justice Roberto A. Abad), please be informed that I have decided to favorably consider such request,” Sereno stated in her letter dated May 29, 2014.
A source said de Castro asked Sereno to identify who were the justices who made the request but Sereno could not name one.
De Castro said she is in favor of the voting process. Several justices also manifested their desire to exercise their right to screen nominees for the SC post.
Sources had claimed that the Chief Justice clipped the voting powers of the associate justices in order to manipulate the shortlist of the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) because she wants Commission on Audit Chairman Grace Pulido-Tan to be chosen as Abad’s replacement.
As Chief Justice, Sereno sits as chairman of the JBC.
The sources said by issuing the controversial letter, Sereno violated the Internal Rules of the JBC.
Rule 8, Section 1 of the Internal Rules of the JBC states: “Due weight and regard to the recommendees of the Supreme Court. In every case involving an appointment to a seat in the Supreme Court, the council shall give due weight and regard to the recommendees of the Supreme Court. For this purpose, the council shall submit to the court a list of candidates for any vacancy in the court with an executive summary of its evaluation and assessment of each of them, together with all relevant records concerning candidates from whom the court may base the selection of recommendees.”
The JBC is scheduled to conduct its voting on June 30.