SC justices face off


Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno FILE PHOTO

Magistrates to confront Sereno over ‘tampered’ Comelec TRO
THE SUPREME Court’s justices end their monthlong rest today with an en banc session that many expect will be “confrontational.”

At issue is an admission by Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno that she tinkered with a temporary restraining order (TRO) that stopped the Commission on Elections (Comelec) from proclaiming the remaining winners in the party-list elections.

The other justices of the court disapprove of Sereno’s “unilateral” action and have threatened to revoke the order.

On Monday, The Manila Times got hold of a copy of Sereno’s letter to Associate Justice Teresita Leonardo-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.

In the two-page letter dated May 30, 2013, Sereno told De Castro that she deviated from the recommendation since it was her interpretation that irreparable injury was sought to be prevented among all winning party-list candidates.

The Times learned that De Castro immediately rebutted the claim by issuing a reply to Sereno’s letter.

Irreparable injury
Sereno said she believed the damage that the prevented when it was issued would benefit not only the Senior Citizens Party-list but other groups as well.

“My interpretation of the situation is that irreparable injury to be prevented by an injunctive relief from this Court is the continued proclamation of winning candidates in the partylist election in such a way that no vacancy is left for the Senior Citizen’s Party,” the Chief Justice argued.

She said she does not want to be blamed for issuing a unilateral TRO which was recommended by De Castro.

“The situation I do not wish to be unilaterally responsible consists of the following . . . The Comelec would have to face the dilemma of interpreting whether the TRO has the legal effect of vesting in the said party-list the right to be proclaimed or not,” Sereno said in the letter.

“Comelec could do either of two things: (a) Proclaim the party-list as a winner; or (b) refuse to proclaim it and ask this Court for clarification on the TRO. Whatever the option is chosen, a lot of controversies and confusion would be generated,” she said.

Sereno said she disregarded the recommendation of De Castro because it should be the court en banc that must decide on the issuance of a TRO.

“The reason for not restraining the Comelec Resolution dated 10 May 2013 disqualifying the petitioner party-list is simple . . . I believe that it is the Court en banc that must collectively make the decision to restrain or not the implementation of the said resolution,” she pointed out.

Sereno told De Castro that the “interregnum between your date of recommendation to restrain the same, 29 May 2013, and 4 June 2013, when the Court shall meet on the matter is but 3 working days. Within those days, because of the TRO that had been issued, no irreparable harm will be caused the said party-list.”

“As Chairman Sixto Brillantes said, the reversal of the Comelec Resolution regarding petitioner (Senior Citizens) will even change the denominator in the formula that must be applied to determine the winning party-lists. In his view, that could mean the dropping off of already proclaimed winners,” she said. “While I was evaluating your recommended action, Justice Bienvenido Reyes also orally communicated his view that a TRO should be issued to stop the continuation of the proclamation to address the relief sought in the new petition raffled to him, and that he was in the process of drafting his synopsis.”

As such, Sereno said the “wisest recourse to give relief to the petitioner in your case, without depriving the Court en banc of the benefit of evaluating whether it should also restrain the Comelec disqualification of the Senior Citizen’s party-list, is to issue a simple TRO to stop further proclamations of winning party-lists.”

The Chief Justice denied that the TRO was a blanket injunction.

“We have four new petitions of disqualified party-lists at least 2 of which appear, in the eyes of their respective ponentes, to merit injunctive reliefs,” she said.

In the original draft ponencia of De Castro, the TRO is limited only to the granting of relief to the plea of the Coalition of Associations of Senior Citizens in the Philippines, which was disqualified by the Comelec for having a term-sharing agreement for their two sets of nominees.

At least seven justices believe that the resolution issued by Sereno was erroneous and should be revoked.

Several justices said that they will have it out with the Chief Justice today.

Sereno was also denounced by her colleagues last December for reopening the Regional Court Administrative Office in Region 7 without the approval of the en banc. Her order was eventually revoked.


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