CHIEF Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno apologized on Thursday for the “confusion” over her leave of absence, as fellow magistrates castigated her for the disinformation.
But lawyer Jojo Lacanilao said the Sereno camp should not be faulted as an announcement on Tuesday that the chief justice would go on a “wellness leave” until March 15, instead of an “indefinite leave” was done without malice.
Moreover, Sereno’s lawyers said they were not privy to the discussions of the Supreme Court en banc on Tuesday, when fellow justices forced Sereno to take a leave of absence or be forced to resign ahead of her looming impeachment trial.
“The developments and discussions on what transpired during the en banc on Tuesday were not privy to us.
Therefore, there was no malice on anyone of us to confuse or mislead [the public, amid]what were fast-developing events in the Supreme Court,” Lacanilao said.
He clarified that his previous announcement was about Sereno merely advancing her approved wellness leave scheduled for March 12 to 23 to March 1 to 15.
Sereno issued a statement saying: “I had agreed to go on an indefinite leave, but I am also bound by the appropriate administrative rules. The rules do not contain any provision on ‘indefinite leave.’”
“I had to qualify my leave according to the provisions of Rule 7, Section 6 of the Internal Rules of the Supreme Court which reads, ‘Members who are on wellness leave or who are on vacation or sick leave, for at least 15 continuous calendar days shall be exempt from raffle’ and the Resolution dated January 23, 2018 on the matter of my approved wellness leave,” she added.
Sereno also maintained that she would not resign.
“I have not resigned and I will not resign. This indefinite leave is not a resignation. I will devote my time to the preparation of my Senate defense and work on the cases in my docket,” she said in her statement.
Lawyer Lorenzo Gadon, the impeachment complainant, accused Sereno of betrayal of public trust and culpable violation of the Constitution for allegedly granting allowances and other perks to herself and her staff on foreign trips; preventing judges from issuing warrants of arrest against Sen. Leila de Lima on drug related charges; acquiring a P9-million bulletproof luxury car; falsifying the temporary restraining order involving the dispute on the elected representatives of the Coalition of Associations of Senior Citizens in the Philippines, Inc.; failing to declare P37 million in fees as government counsel in her statement of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN); and manipulating the shortlist of the Judicial and Bar Council to exclude then Solicitor General Francis Jardeleza, for personal and political reasons, thereby curtailing the President’s power to appoint members of the judiciary.
In an unprecedented development, 13 out of 15 justices issued a statement saying the confusion over Sereno’s leave would be “dealt with accordingly.”
“The Court En Banc regrets the confusion that the announcements and media releases of the spokespersons of the Chief Justice have caused, which seriously damaged the integrity of the Judiciary, in general, and the Supreme Court, in particular. In the ordinary course of events, the Court expected the Chief Justice to cause the announcement only of what was really agreed upon without any modification or embellishment. This matter shall be dealt with in a separate proceeding,” it pointed out.
The statement was signed by Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio and Associate Justices Presbitero Velasco, Jr., Teresita Leonardo-de Castro, Diosdado Peralta, Lucas Bersamin, Mariano del Castillo, Estela Perlas-Bernabe, Marvic Leonen, Francis Jardeleza, Samuel Martires, Noel Tijam, Andres Reyes, Jr. and Alexander Gesmundo.
Associate Justice Benjamin Caguioa was on leave during Tuesday’s en banc session.
Explaining their action against Sereno, the 13 justices said: “After extended deliberations last Tuesday, February 27, 2018, thirteen of the Justices present arrived at a consensus that the Chief Justice should take an indefinite leave. Several reasons were mentioned by the various justices. After consulting with the two most senior justices, the Chief Justice herself announced that she was taking an indefinite leave, with the amendment that she start the leave on Thursday, March 1, 2018. The Chief Justice did not request the rescheduling of her wellness leave.”
with MARY GLEEFER JALEA