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5 more justices to testify vs Sereno

Edu Punay - The Philippine Star
5 more justices  to testify vs Sereno

To recall, the SC allowed last August the release of court records and documents sought by impeachment complainants to bolster their case against Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno. Edd Gumban/File

MANILA, Philippines — Five more Supreme Court justices are ready to testify in the impeachment proceedings against Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno in the House of Representatives when hearings resume next month.

This will bring to nine the number of incumbent justices expected to take the witness stand. If all will testify, it will be more than the majority number of eight in the SC.

An insider bared that the House justice committee has invited Associate Justices Diosdado Peralta, Lucas Bersamin, Mariano del Castillo, Samuel Martires and Andres Reyes Jr. to appear in the hearings to answer issues hurled against Sereno in the impeachment complaint filed by lawyer Lorenzo Gadon.

Associate Justices Teresita Leonardo-de Castro, Francis Jardeleza and Noel Tijam took the witness stand earlier, along with retired Associate Justice Arturo Brion.

Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio was also invited to attend the hearing on Jan. 18, 2018.

The STAR reported earlier that Carpio is also expected to attend the hearing, but the senior justice has yet to formally accept the House panel’s invite and opted to first seek clarification as to which charges against Sereno he would be asked about.

Last Nov. 28, the SC allowed its justices and officials invited by the House to testify in the impeachment proceedings against the Chief Justice.

In a unanimous vote, Sereno’s fellow magistrates in the high court decided to allow members of the judiciary invited by the House justice committee to testify in the hearings.

The justices and court officials were allowed to discuss administrative matters raised in the impeachment case.

But on adjudicative matters or matters that go into the decision of cases, only Justice De Castro has been authorized to appear and testify before the House panel and only in relation to three matters.

De Castro was allowed by the SC to discuss the exchange of communications on the issuance of the temporary restraining order in the case involving senior citizens between herself and Sereno.

She can also testify on the merits of the decision she penned that declared unconstitutional the clustering of shortlisted nominees made by the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) last year in connection with the vacancies in the Sandiganbayan.

The SC also ordered De Castro to discuss the merits of her separate concurring opinion in the August 2014 ruling that voided the JBC’s decision not to include the name of Jardeleza on the shortlist of nominees for the position of SC justice after Sereno raised an integrity issue against him. 

But De Castro is barred from discussing matters involving the deliberations of the Court on those three cases, which are covered by confidentiality rule under SC rules.

De Castro has appeared in the impeachment hearing twice. She accused Sereno of misleading the justices in the creation of the regional court administration office (RCAO) in Cebu, among others.

Jardeleza also testified on the impeachment charge involving his earlier exclusion from the JBC shortlist. 

In the hearing, Jardeleza accused Sereno of treason when she disclosed a highly confidential memorandum in the West Philippine Sea arbitration case in objecting to his earlier nomination for a post in the SC and excluding him from the shortlist of the JBC for alleged question on integrity.

Brion also testified before the House on the same issue and said the Chief Justice committed misrepresentation and acted with malice.

Tijam, on the other hand, was invited by the House in connection to allegation in the complaint that Sereno caused the delay in the transfer of the rebellion cases against arrested members and supporters of Maute terrorist group in Marawi City to a court in Metro Manila. He said the SC chief was “mentally dishonest.”
Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II appeared before the House on the same issue and claimed that Sereno asked him to tone down his request for transfer of the Maute cases to a Metro Manila court.

To recall, the SC allowed last August the release of court records and documents sought by impeachment complainants to bolster their case against Sereno.

Among the records ordered released were the SC’s revocation of Sereno’s order in 2012 to reopen a RCAO in Cebu without the collegial approval of the SC.

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