3 justices to testify vs Sereno

Lawyer Lorenzo Gadon attends the House hearing on the impeachment complaint against Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno Monday.

MANILA — Three magistrates of the Supreme Court (SC), including a retired colleague, have expressed their intention to testify in the impeachment proceedings against Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno at the House of Representatives.

Associate Justices Teresita Leonardo-de Castro and Noel Tijam as well as retired justice Arturo Brion Monday said they want to accept the invitation of the House justice committee. But they would first seek consent of the SC sitting as a collegial body.

De Castro and Tijam have raised the issue with their colleagues and the matter is set to be tackled at their regular session today.

Brion said he would also wait for the SC’s approval, since the issues they are called upon to testify involve internal matters of the tribunal.

All three magistrates sent separate letters to the House panel asking to be given more time to answer the invitation, pending permission from the SC.

“May I request that I be given time to seek clearance from the Court, during the session on Tuesday (Nov. 28, 2017), to produce at the hearing all internal communications, memoranda and other documents relevant to the allegations in the Verified Impeachment Complaint. As soon as the clearance is granted, I shall honor your invitation to attend the aforementioned hearing,” read De Castro’s letter to the House panel.

“Considering that this issue involves the actions of the members of the Court, the undersigned deems it appropriate to first secure their approval before participating in the aforesaid proceedings. Likewise, there is a need to collate records for an informed and accurate recollection of relevant information,” explained Tijam in a separate letter.
Brion, for his part, said he would also await the decision of the SC on the matter even if he has retired from the judiciary.

De Castro, who earlier reportedly agreed to testify in the impeachment hearing, was invited by the House over the internal memorandum she filed in the SC last July questioning several administrative orders of Sereno, including appointment of a Philippine Judicial Academy (Philja) official and provision for travel allowances of her staff.

In the memorandum, De Castro specifically assailed the appointment of lawyer Brenda Jay Mendoza as Philja chief of office for the Philippine Mediation Center, which she said violated their Administrative Order No. 33-2008 that required the appointment to be approved by the SC collegially.

The magistrate also assailed Sereno’s grant of foreign travel allowance to members of her staff without required approval from the SC.

She revealed that the Chief Justice’s staff members were being given travel allowances even when their trips abroad were on “official time,” which should not involve expenditure of public funds.

De Castro has also questioned the “long delay” in the appointment in vacant key positions in the SC pending before Sereno’s office, “which is prejudicial to the best interest of the service.”

These issues are among the allegations raised by lawyer Larry Gadon in his impeachment complaint against Sereno.