Brenda Jay Angeles-Mendoza, the alleged illegal appointee of Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, has resigned as chief of the Office of the Philippine Judicial Academy’s Philippine Mediation Center Office (PMCO) after being dragged into the impeachment complaint against the head of the judiciary.
In a one-page letter to the high court dated February 20, 2018, Mendoza said she was quitting for personal and professional reasons.
The appointment of Mendoza was questioned by Associate Justice Teresita Leonardo de Castro, who said it was not approved by the SC en banc.
“I respectfully tender my resignation as PHILJA Chief of Office for the Philippine Mediation Center (PMC) effective 26 February 2018. I am in serious discussion with an international organization for a pioneering work on environmental mediation that requires my availability in the next month. My apologies for the short notice,” Mendoza said.
She thanked the court “for the opportunity of serving the judiciary, particularly in its objective of administering justice through Alternative Dispute Resolution.”
De Castro raised the issue of Sereno’s appointment of Mendoza.
In a six-page Internal Memorandum dated August 25, 2017, de Castro asked her fellow justices to move against the schemes and practices of Sereno and stop the weakening of the powers of the SC en banc.
“Finally it is about time that the Court en banc avert the continuing diminution of its constitutionally vested powers by now setting clear guidelines in the appointment of ranking officials and identifying those key positions which should be filled up by the Court En Banc appointment,” de Castro said.
She asked the en banc to revoke the appointment of Mendoza.
“I propose that the Court recall and revoke the appointment of Atty. Brenda Joy Angeles-Mendoza as Chief of Office for the PMCO. It appearing that it is not widely known that the position of PMCO Chief of Office has the rank of Associate Justice of the Court of Appeals and one of the qualifications required is extensive experience in alternative dispute resolution, the filling up of the vacancy in the PMCO Chief of Office position may be opened to generate more aspirants to the said position from among the ranks of our retired Judges and Justices who have extensive experience in mediating cases in the course of their previous judicial work and in implementing the court annexed mediation,” de Castro said.
She pointed out that the 1987 Constitution vested on the SC en banc, not the chief justice, the power to appoint officials in the judiciary.
On Wednesday, Sereno denounced the use of “shortcuts,” apparently referring to the quo warranto petition filed against her.
“The current state of the nation is one where perceived enemies of the dominant order are considered fair game for harassment, intimidation, and persecutions. Where shortcuts are preferred over adherence to constitutional guarantees of human rights, including denial of due process, where fake news and propaganda abound to deceive and manipulate, rather than enlighten and educate; and where coarseness, including the denigration of women, rather than civility, mark the language of the podium,” she said in her speech during a women’s forum at St. Scholastica’s College.
Sereno said the Filipino people can do something to change the system.
“Let us be thoroughly convinced that we can do something to change the situation as citizens of this country,” she said. “We must not be passive spectators to what is happening, thinking that it is but a game of thrones among political forces with little connection to the lives of majority of the Filipinos.”
“The time will come when our people will realize that impromptu, extemporized, unprepared, unthought out plans of action, that run contrary to the structured way the Constitution designed accountability harms our nation’s long term future,” she said.
President Rodrigo Duterte maintained that he was not behind moves to oust Sereno, saying he never meddled in the affairs of the judiciary.
“You can ask anybody—I never initiated Sereno. I just called her attention because of the so many cases pending tapos pa iba iba ang decision niya (and she flipflops in her decisions),” the President said in his speech during the oath-taking of the officials of the Presidential Anti-Corruption Commission on Tuesday night.
“The very complaint now of the justices, ‘yun man ‘yon (that’s it). O kita mo, ‘di lumabas rin (See, it was finally revealed),” he added.
Sereno is facing an impeachment complaint at the House of Representatives, having been accused by Lorenzo Gadon of culpable violation of the Constitution, betrayal of public trust, corruption and other high crimes.
“Congress, well, you be the judge,” Duterte said.
The chief justice is also facing a quo warranto petition filed by the Office of Solicitor General asking the Supreme Court to oust Sereno on grounds that her appointment was void from the start because she failed to disclose her statement of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN) to the Judicial and Bar Council.
Palace spokesman Harry Roque said Malacañang will wait for the high court’s decision on such an unprecendented case.
“While the normal rule is that impeachable officers can only be removed through impeachment, the petitioners, who I believe are fully cognizant of this doctrine, probably feel that under the circumstance, the general rule should not be applicable. So let’s wait for the decision of the Supreme Court,” Roque said.
with ARIC JOHN SY CUA AND CATHERINE S. VALENTE