13 justices urge Sereno to take indefinite leave

MANILA Thirteen Supreme Court (SC) justices arrived at a consensus, stating that Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno should take an indefinite leave of absence.

The statement of the magistrates was read by SC spokersperson, Theodore Te, in a press conference Thursday.

The letter was signed by Senior Associate Justice Antonio T. Carpio, Associate Justices Presbitero J. Velasco Jr., Teresita J. Leonardo-de Castro, Diosdado M. Peralta, Lucas P. Bersamin, Mariano C. del Castillo, Estela M. Perlas-Bernabe, Marvic M.V.F. Leonen, Francis H. Jardeleza, Samuel R. Martires, Noel Gimenez Tijam, Andres B. Reyes Jr., and Alexander G. Gesmundo.

Only Associate Justice Alfredo Benjamin S. Caguioa was not able to sign the letter because he is currently on leave.

The magistrates issued the statement to clear the confusion created by the Chief Justice's spokespersons, who earlier said the latter is only taking a wellness leave and not an indefinite leave.

Te clarified that during the high court's en banc session Tuesday, Sereno decided to take an indefinite leave after consulting with two most senior justices.

With this, Te said Sereno did not request for the rescheduling for her wellness leave, contrary to what her spokespersons earlier said.

The Court en banc regrets the confusion that the announcements and media releases of the spokespersons of the Chief Justice have caused, which seriously damaged the integrity of the Judiciary in general and the Supreme Court in particular, Te told reporters as he read what the high court justices said in their letter.

Several reasons were mentioned by the various justices. After consulting with the two most senior justices, the Chief Justice herself announced that she was taking an indefinite leave, with the amendment that she start the leave on Thursday, March 1, 2018. The Chief Justice did not request the rescheduling of her wellness leave, read the letter.

In the ordinary course of events, the Court expected the Chief Justice to cause the announcement only of what was really agreed upon without any modification or embellishment. This matter shall be dealt with in a separate proceeding, the SC justices said.

Senior Associate Justice Antonio T. Carpio shall be the Acting Chief Justice while the Clerk of Court and the Office of the Court Administrator will be informed and ordered to inform all courts and offices accordingly of the matter.

Te refused to give further statement other than what was stated in the justice's letter.

On Wednesday, Sereno said she would use her leave of absence to prepare her legal defense in her impeachment case, which is expected to reach the Senate anytime soon.

Sereno is facing an impeachment complaint filed by lawyer Larry Gadon, who accused her of corruption when she used public funds to finance her extravagant and lavish lifestyle by ordering the purchase of a brand-new luxurious Toyota Land Cruiser 2017 model as her personal vehicle, amounting to more than PHP5 million and stay in opulent hotels when attending conferences in the country and abroad.

Source: Philippine News Agency

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