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Sereno to justices: Impeachment baseless; focus on work

Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno’s appeal came after Associate Justice Teresita Leonardo de Castro and other ranking Supreme Court (SC) officials testified in the hearings on her impeachment by the House justice committee. Three or four more magistrates are expected to appear in the hearings next week. File

MANILA, Philippines — Saying she has repeatedly stated her position that the charges in the impeachment complaint against her “bear no sufficient basis,” Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno appealed yesterday to her fellow magistrates to focus on their work as “there is much to be done for this country.”

Sereno’s appeal came after Associate Justice Teresita Leonardo de Castro and other ranking Supreme Court (SC) officials testified in the hearings on her impeachment by the House justice committee. Three or four more magistrates are expected to appear in the hearings next week.

“In various fora, I have already tried to incapsulate in very brief form why the charges against me, in fact, should bear no sufficient basis,” the SC chief said in her speech at the 14th Metrobank Foundation Professorial Chair Lecture at the SC.

The justice committee is trying to determine probable cause to impeach Sereno. If such is established, the committee will transmit the complaint to the Senate for trial.

“To the men and women of the judiciary. Please continue to focus on your work. Nothing should distract us,” she said.

“Continue your work undistracted, professionally and excellently as you have been doing in the past,” she said, addressing her colleagues.

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She pointed out the “country is crying for justice.” She did not elaborate.

The SC chief stressed it is important for members of the judiciary to “monitor and watch and be on the lookout for the hallmarks of independence, integrity and dignity of the judiciary to be preserved.

“It is most important to me that the dignity and independence of the judiciary is preserved. And that has been the principle I have been observing in my conduct in all of these times,” she said.

In the same address, Sereno also insisted on her innocence of charges in the impeachment complaint of lawyer Lorenzo Gadon, which she already addressed in her verified answer.

“I have submitted myself to this process according to the rights that are accorded in my position. And I hope that you have taken it in all good faith that my intent is to defend the dignity and independence of the judiciary,” she told SC officials and employees.

Sereno has opted not to attend the impeachment hearings at the House. She decried the decision of the House justice committee to deny her lawyers the opportunity to cross-examine the witnesses summoned by the panel, calling it a violation of her constitutional rights.

Associate Justices Francis Jardeleza, Noel Tijam and Samuel Martires and retired associate justice Arturo Brion are expected to testify in the impeachment hearings next week.

De Castro testified on some of the 27 allegations raised by Gadon in his impeachment complaint, including an administrative case stemming from Sereno’s issuance of an order creating a regional court administration office in Cebu without the high court’s collegial approval.

De Castro had also discussed before the House panel the merits of her separate concurring opinion in the August 2014 ruling that voided the Judicial and Bar Council’s decision not to include the name of then solicitor general Francis Jardeleza in the shortlist of nominees for SC justice post after Sereno raised an integrity issue against him.

With De Castro at the House hearings was SC Court Administrator Jose Midas Marquez who discussed the administrative processes in the high court.

Sereno’s camp has insisted the matters De Castro discussed before the committee reflected only the differences in opinion within a collegial body and did not constitute an impeachable offense.

The Chief Justice’s lawyers argued De Castro’s concerns could be properly addressed by the magistrates internally and not through an extraordinary remedy of impeachment.

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