CHIEF Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno did not raffle off the request by Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre 2nd to remove the cases filed against the Maute group out of Marawi City, Supreme Court justices said on Monday.
Associate Justice Teresita de Castro confirmed this before the Justice Committee of the House of Representatives.
Associate Justice Noel Tijam said the May 29 letter of Aguirre was included in the Supreme Court’s en banc session on June 6 but was not discussed.
Tijam said that during the lunch break of the same day, he received a call from Sereno, saying that she discussed the letter with other members of the Court over lunch following the en banc session.
“She told me, ‘You were not here but we decided that the case be heard in Cagayan de Oro.’ With that manifestation of the Chief Justice, she manifested to me that the majority of the en banc agreed to hold the trial cases in Cagayan de Oro City. I said if that’s the case then if that’s the wish of the majority then I will abide by it,” Tijam said.
Tijam said “a lunch was attended by the members of the Court, but not all members are present.”
“I do not know how many members were present during lunch, but there is a distinct difference in discussing matters during the en banc session and holding a caucus on an important matter when in front of your plates, forks and food,” Tijam said.
Associate Justice Francis Jardeleza, in a separate testimony, said he was “surprised” about the decision to hold the trial cases in Cagayan de Oro City “because the day before [the en banc session]the Chief Justice circulated to members of the Court materials on this matter which included the letter, the recommendation of [Court Administrator Midas] Marquez and [Justice Theodore] Te and the proposed resolution.”
Marquez’s recommendation was to move the cases to the Taguig Regional Court.
Tijam said the results of the raffles were confidential and that the Justice assigned to the case would be duly notified.
“I assumed that the letter was raffled to her because she was the one who reported in the en banc [on]this particular matter. I was surprised that the May 29 letter of Secretary Aguirre was not attached to the rollo [folder]of the case, but it was stamp-received by the office of the Chief Justice on the same day,” Tijam said. RALPH EDWIN U. VILLANUEVA