Four justices of the Supreme Court today appeared as witnesses before the House justice committee during its seventh day of deliberations in determining probable cause for impeachment of Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno. Associate Justices Teresita Leonardo-de Castro, Noel Tijam, Francis Jardeleza and retired associate justice Arturo Brion were invited by the committee to testify on allegations by Atty. Lorenzo Gadon that Sereno committed culpable violations of the Constitution. Pantaleon Alvarez/Released

At Sereno impeachment hearing, divisions among justices go on full display
Audrey Morallo ( - December 11, 2017 - 9:45am

MANILA, Philippines — Divisions among justices went on full display on Monday at the House of Representatives as some members of the Supreme Court openly excoriated Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno for her violations of the tribunal's collegial nature.

Speaking at the hearing of the House aimed at finding probable cause in moves to remove Sereno from office, Justices Teresita Leonardo-De Castro, Francis Jardaleza and Noel Tijam and former Justice Arturo Brion slammed the chief justice for violations of the en banc's, or full court's, rules which allegedly cast doubts on its integrity.

Brion said that the chief justice's continued violations of the collegial nature of the high court had spawned negative sentiments among some members of the court which resulted in heated verbal tussles among some justices in some cases.

"If you put together the small drops they will amount to a stream, and this stream will eventually become a flood," Brion said in Filipino during the House justice committee hearing.

"During en banc sessions, we sometimes clash with each other," Brion said, offering a rare glimpse of the dynamics among the Court's 15 members.

READ:  Maute case transfer was not raffled, De Castro says

De Castro said that she had repeatedly called the attention of the chief justice so she would not commit the same mistakes but nothing had changed in the past five years.

"It's been continuing for the past five years. Until when should we endure and wait?" De Castro asked.

Sereno is facing the specter of removal from office stemming from a complaint filed by Lorenzo Gadon, a close associate of former President Gloria Arroyo and a losing senatorial candidate of the Kilusang Bagong Lipunan of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos.

The chief justice is accused of committing acts that betrayed public trust and violated the Constitution as well as facilitating questionable transactions involving the Supreme Court's funds such as the use of lavish hotel suites and the purchase of luxury vehicle for her service vehicle.  

According to Jardaleza, the full court is concerned of its reputation as a result of Sereno's supposed disregard for the en banc's rules.

“We are here to make sure that after these proceedings that the en banc in its entirety stands for the rule of law,” Jardeleza said.

De Castro labeled Sereno's assignment of Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II's request to hold the trial of captured Islamist militants in Manila to herself as "irregular" and insisted that the case was not actually raffled and assigned to the chief magistrate.

“I believe that the actions done by the Chief Justice from the time she assumed the position showed no respect for the court en banc,” De Castro said.

READ:  Tijam: Transfer of Maute cases discussed over lunch, not en banc

Tijam said that the move of Sereno to assign the Maute case to herself and make it appear that the full court agreed to transfer the trial of the cases to Cagayan De Oro City was an "arrogation" upon herself of the power of the court en banc.

Sereno's spokespersons countered that De Castro, the acting chair of the raffle committee on June 19 during which the Maute case was assigned, countersigned the raffle sheet on the same data and did not pose any objection as well as two other members of the panel.

They also defended Sereno from accusations that the chief justice caused the delay of the transfer of the cases against the militants from war-ravaged Marawi City to a court in Metro Manila.

Sereno's spokespersons explained that while Aguirre's transfer request was pending at the Court the tribunal was also conducting oral arguments on petitions questioning the declaration of martial law. There was also a need to coordinate with other agencies such as the DOJ, the Philippine National Police and the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

READ: Sereno camp: No intentional delay on Maute transfer request

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