Associate Justice Carpio to testify vs Chief Justice Sereno

An insider told The STAR yesterday that Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio has agreed to testify after the holiday break and is expected to formally accept the invitation from the House panel. Philstar.com/Jonathan Asuncion, File

Associate Justice Carpio to testify vs Chief Justice Sereno
Edu Punay (The Philippine Star) - December 12, 2017 - 4:00pm

MANILA, Philippines — In a surprising twist in the impeachment case of Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno, a senior magistrate of the Supreme Court perceived to be her ally is set to testify when the House committee on justice resumes its hearings next month.

An insider told The STAR yesterday that Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio has agreed to testify after the holiday break and is expected to formally accept the invitation from the House panel.

The source, who requested anonymity due to lack of authority to speak on the matter, revealed that the senior justice will appear on Jan. 18 along with two colleagues  – Associate Justices Mariano del Castillo and Samuel Martires.

“He actually already wanted to appear in the hearing yesterday, but his turn will be in January since the House panel is time managing the testimonies of witnesses,” the source said.

Four other SC associate justices – Teresita Leonardo-de Castro, Francis Jardeleza and Noel Tijam and Arturo Brion (now retired) – have testified in the impeachment proceedings against Sereno. This brings to seven the total of SC justices testifying against the Chief Justice.

Court observers perceive Sereno and Carpio as allies in the high court, citing their identical votes in many high-profile cases where they usually joined dissenting justices.

According to the insider, Carpio was invited in relation to the alleged anomaly in Sereno’s hiring of an information technology (IT) consultant for her office. Carpio, the most senior among the justices in terms of tenure, was the one who asked to have it investigated.

A fact-finding report was submitted to the SC last month and recommended that the contract, amounting to about P10 million for the services of IT consultant Helen Perez-Macasaet, be voided for “lapses in the procurement process.” It stated that the contract violated existing laws and Commission on Audit rules because it did not undergo public bidding.

The report was submitted by newly appointed Assistant Court Administrator Maria Regina Adoracion Filomena Ignacio, who is also the acting chief attorney tasked to investigate the alleged anomaly.

The contract, which covered six periods of six months each from October 2013 to June 2016, involved services of Macasaet “to provide technical and policy advice to the Office of the Chief Justice and the Management Information Systems Office of the Supreme Court regarding implementation of EISP (Enterprise Information Systems Plan) and related ICT (information communication technology) projects.”

In the first period under the contract, Macasaet was paid P600,000 or P100,000 per month. But in the succeeding periods, the amount was increased to P1.5 million or P250,000 per month.

It was among the 27 charges in the impeachment complaint filed by lawyer Lorenzo Gadon against Sereno.

The lawyer claimed that the Chief Justice committed betrayal of public trust for her “willful failure to procure the services of an ICT consultant in accordance with law and public policy.”

Sereno, in answering the charge, claimed that it was the SC that hired Macasaet, who was chosen from among three choices through a “negotiated procurement.”

The SC chief also argued that Macasaet’s services are “highly technical in nature” so the contract is exempted from public bidding requirement.

Betrayal of public trust

Meanwhile, Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez firmly believes the testimony of SC Associate Justice Francis Jardeleza that Sereno committed treason can very well pass for betrayal of public trust. 

“For me, it falls within betrayal of public trust…it is now clear that the impeachment has basis, it is even overwhelming,” he said in Filipino.

While treason is “applicable only during war,” he opined that Sereno could still be held liable for it.   

Alvarez insisted that the testimony of four SC justices, made under oath Monday at the House committee on justice hearing, makes the rebuttal of Sereno more compelling.

“All of those are first hand information. How do you refute that? All those were made under oath. So, there is a presumption of credibility. They were not afraid to attend the hearings…This is a constitutional process that should be respected by impeachable officials… The way I see it, she is afraid to confront the truth. Look at her camp, all it did was to make stories,” the Speaker explained. 

When Jardeleza appeared before the House justice committee of Oriental Mindoro Rep. Reynaldo Umali last Monday, he claimed that Sereno illegally secured in 2014 a highly-confidential matter about the Philippines’ legal position over the disputed West Philippine Sea. 

Jardeleza, a former solicitor general, said he wondered how the chief magistrate was able to get the information when this was classified “confidential and restricted” because the issue on the Itu Aba rock formation was only known among lawyers in the executive department. – Delon Porcalla

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