SUPREME Court (SC) justices rebuked Chief Justice Lourdes Sereno for issuing a unilateral order asking Justice Secretary Leila de Lima to tap the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to investigate members of the judiciary.
The Manila Times learned that the justices discussed a press statement issued by Sereno’s office that she had given de Lima the go-ahead for a lifestyle check of justices and judges.
A member of the Court said the justices revoked Sereno’s order. With the revocation, it will be the High Court that will investigate judges.
“En banc took over [the]investigation,” the justice who asked not to be named said in a text message.
It was not the first time that Sereno acted on her own, without notifying the en banc justices.
She was accused by Justice Teresita Leonardo-De Castro of lying during en banc deliberations after Sereno issued a resolution, without the concurrence of the en banc, creating the Regional Court Administration Office in Cebu or RCAO Region 7.
During deliberations last week, Sereno’s press release was presented to the High Court by Justice Arturo Brion after Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio insisted that the investigation should be carried out by the Court as a collegial body.
But Sereno was quick to claim that the press release issued by the Office of the Chief Justice was erroneous.
“Hindi totoo yan. Mali iyan, mali iyang press release [The press release was wrong],” a source quoted Sereno as saying when questioned about the statement.
Carpio read the statement in front of the en banc and asked Sereno if she was quoted in the press release.
“I was misquoted,” Sereno replied.
“It was obvious Meilou [Sereno] was lying,” the source said. “The press statement clearly quoted her and it was issued by the Office of the Chief Justice. To save face she denied it came from her.”
The press release was distributed to media representatives by the Court’s information office and delivered to de Lima, who gave reporters copies of it.
“What was she thinking. It gave the executive department the authority to investigate judges and justices. De Lima and the NBI could subpoena the magistrates if she wanted to,” an Supreme Court justice told the Times.
The Court decided to create a committee to take jurisdiction in investigating the case.
Associate Justice Estela Perlas-Bernabe suggested that the committee be headed by a member of the tribunal who did not come from the Regional Trial Court, since the panel will be investigating members of the Philippine Judges Association (PJA).
Associate Justice Marvic Leonen, who was absent during the deliberations, was named head the committee with two retired Supreme Court justices as members.
The justices said it is up to Leonen to decide to ask help from other government agencies in conducting the probe.