Embattled Chief Justice on-leave Maria Lourdes Sereno allowed her supporters to get into the Supreme Court (SC) resthouse compound in Baguio City, letting them sleep in her cottage without permission from the court, sources said.
Highly placed sources told The Manila Times that Sereno, through her confidante Joy Fabian, started “smuggling” her supporters into the chief justice’s cottage on Saturday, April 7. Sereno’s supporters were to hold a rally on the day the high tribunal was to hear oral arguments on the quo warranto case filed by the Office of the Solicitor General against the chief justice.
The sources said Fabian allowed at least 15 “outsiders” to sleep in the chief justice’s cottage without any clearance from acting Chief Justice Antonio Carpio.
The court’s security officers questioned the entry of Sereno’s “visitors” who also could not present written permission from her.
The source said Carpio learned of the matter and disapproved of their continued stay in Sereno’s cottage. This prompted the security guards to order them out of the compound.
“Sereno is on leave but she continues to use the Baguio cottage, which is a government property. Worse, she even allowed the entry of private persons like these rallyists to sleep over, use the premises and the properties inside,” the source told the Times.
On Monday, April 9, the eve of the oral arguments, Sereno herself allowed the entry of the rallyists by leading a convoy of two vehicles.
The guards let Sereno’s car in but when they tried to stop the car behind it, the chief justice opened her window and told the guards off.
“Kung may kuwestiyon kayo, sa cottage tayo mag-usap (if you have questions, let’s talk in the cottage),” the source quoted Sereno as saying.
The guards had no choice but to allow Sereno’s supporters inside.
The source said the entry of the rallyists led to the ejectment of Sereno’s staff, including Czarina Samonte-Villanueva, who was scheduled to stay there for the court’s summer session. Thus, some employees had to find another place to stay in.
Sources said Sereno’s supporters held a vigil in the cottage from Monday night up to Tuesday morning by singing religious songs and chanting. They played trumpets and marched around the cottage.
However, Sereno’s visitors almost set the cottage on fire. The source said they left their cooking unattended, causing a fire, which was put out before it could spread further.
No report was made of the incident because not a single personnel of the security and administrative services dared to enter Sereno’s cottage, the source said.
Sereno faced SC justices on Tuesday, April 10, during the oral arguments over her case.
Solicitor General Jose Calida asked the high tribunal to oust Sereno for her alleged failure to submit her Statements of Assets Liabilities and Networth (SALN) as required by the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) when she applied for her post.
It was the first time a sitting chief justice faced off with her fellow magistrates.
Carpio sat as presiding officer of the oral arguments attended by 12 justices.
Sereno insisted that only the Senate, as an impeachment court, had jurisdiction over her case. She and Associate Justice Teresita Leonardo-de Castro traded barbs when the latter asked the chief justice if she filed a complete set of SALNS when she applied for the position of associate justice in 2010.
Instead of answering the questions, Sereno countered by saying that de Castro herself only filed 15 SALNs, instead of 39.
This irked de Castro, who countered that she was not on trial.
Sereno, answering a query from Associate Justice Noel Tijam, said she filed three SALNs, a substantial compliance with the JBC requirement.
The chief justice had asked five justices—de Castro, Lucas Bersamin, Noel Tijam, Diosdado Peralta and Francis Jardeleza—to inhibit themselves from her case, but they denied her motion.