Sereno empowered to modify TRO issued by De Castro — lawyers

Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno and Associate Justice Teresita de Castro

MANILA — When the Supreme Court is in recess, Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno is expressly empowered to “act” on urgent cases, even without the recommendation of Associate Justice Teresita de Castro, the top magistrate’s camp said on Wednesday.

Earlier, De Castro earlier said she was “taken aback” by Sereno for “altering” the temporary restraining order (TRO) she recommended involving a senior citizens’ partylist in May 2013.

De Castro made the statement before the House justice committee in its hearing on Wednesday into Sereno’s impeachment.

De Castro said that she, as member in charge of the petitions, recommended that the Commission on Elections (Comelec) be stopped from implementing its May 10 resolution.

The resolution nullified the Coalition of Senior Citizens in the Philippines from participating in the elections on grounds it had violated the rule on term-sharing of allotted seats in the House of Representatives.

What Sereno issued instead, was a TRO stopping the Comelec from proclaiming the five remaining winners of the May 13 polls.

De Castro said she was not even consulted by Sereno before issuing the TRO, which indicated that the resolution was upon her recommendation.

“If only she consulted me,” De Castro said. “The problem is she wrote there that the TRO was upon my recommendation.”

She stressed that she had a different recommendation.

“She should have issued it on her own,” De Castro said. “Why did she attribute to me what she did?”

But Sereno’s lawyers said that when the application for a TRO in G.R. Nos. 206844-45 was filed, the SC was in recess.

“Under Section 6, Rule 7 of the SC Internal Rules, the Chief Justice is expressly empowered to ‘act’ on urgent cases requiring immediate action, including initiatory pleadings praying for the issuance of a temporary restraining order,” Sereno’s legal team said.

“Therefore, the Chief Justice could very well have issued a TRO in G.R. Nos. 206844-45, even without the recommendation of the Member-in-Charge [De Castro],” they added.
In other words, De Castro’s power was “mere recommendatory.”

“However, since Justice De Castro was merely ‘recommending’ a course of action to the Chief Justice, and further considering that the proposed ‘temporary restraining order’ was merely a ‘draft,’ the Chief Justice can wholly accept, modify or even reject Justice De Castro’s recommendation,‘ Sereno’s camp said.

Thus, Sereno’s lawyers said: “The Chief Justice could not be accused of falsifying anything. In the exercise of her own discretion and authority to issue TROs when the Court is in recess, the Chief Justice elected to issue a temporary restraining order under terms she considered just and proper.”

The alleged falsification of TROs is one of the bases of lawyer-complainant Lorenzo “Larry” Gadon in accusing Sereno of culpable violation of the Constitution.

Aside from this, Gadon is also alleging that Sereno betrayed public trust and committed corruption and other high crimes.

The House justice committee is deliberating whether Gadon’s impeachment complaint against the top magistrate has probable cause.