Supreme Court Associate Justice Teresita Leonardo De Castro's testimony before the impeachment proceedings of the House of Representatives backed allegations that Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno issued a resolution inconsistent with the decision of the court en banc.
The allegation was among the grounds Atty. Lorenzo Gadon cited in support of the charge for culpable violation of the constitution he raised in filing an impeachment complaint against Sereno.
In a precedent-setting testimony before the impeachment proceedings of the Committee on Justice, De Castro said Sereno not only unilaterally issued Administrative Order ?175-2012, but that it was also inconsistent with the court's 2006v decisions pertaining to the creation of the Regional Court Administration Office in Region 7 (RCAO-7).
Instead of the RCAO, De Castro said, Sereno's order created the Judiciary Decentralized Office and appointed Judge Geraldine Econg as head of the office, which is contrary to the earlier en banc decisions designating the Court Administrator as implementor of the RCAO pilot project.
When I compared the AO issued by the Chief Justice, it did not conform with the provisions of these administrative matters approved by the court en banc, De Castro said.
She cannot do it by herself because she has only one vote. And unless there is a delegation of authority by the court en banc, the Chief Justice cannot exercise the administrative supervision of all courts which is vested in the Supreme Court as a collegial body, she added.
De Castro said the court en banc sustained her position that the AO was contrary to earlier decisions of the court but so as not to embarrass Sereno, the SC decided instead to just create a study group. She said Sereno even promised to amend the questioned administrative order.
However, De Castro said that to her surprise, the resolution that came out on the matter, or A.M. No. 12-11-9-SC issued on November 27, 2012 indicated that the court en banc ratified Sereno's action and the appointment of Econg, among others.
Because of this, De Castro said she wrote another letter to the court en banc.
With due respect to the Chief Justice, to my recollection the resolution does not reflect the deliberation and consensus of the justices, De Castro said in the letter.
De Castro said that during the SC en banc deliberations, Sereno did not try to explain her actions nor attempt to answer the issues raised in her letter to the court.
On my part, I'm not after putting her down. I just want to correct what has been done to put things in the proper order as decided by the court in previous resolutions, De Castro said in explaining her action.
On January 22, 2013, the Supreme Court issued a corrective resolution creating a Decentralization Needs Assessment Committee to study and determine the necessity of decentralizing administrative functions appurtenant to the exercise of the Supreme Court's power of supervision over lower courts.
Likewise, the SC stressed that the January 22, 2013 Resolution supersedes all prior resolutions, administrative orders and issuances on the covered matter and shall take effect upon its promulgation.
Majority Leader Rodolfo FariAas said that by revoking Sereno's resolution the SC actually rebuked the Chief Justice.
In effect the Nov. 27 resolution was not approved or set aside. There's no such express setting aside but you can get the idea, De Castro said.
Meanwhile, De Castro refused to say whether or not Sereno has violated the constitution in issuing the questioned AO. However, Farinas said that De Castro's letter to the SC was clear on that issue.
FariAas said that in that letter, De Castro said Sereno's order cannot deprive the High Court of its constitutional duty to exercise administrative supervision over all courts and their personnel and the Office of the Court Administrator of its statutory duty under Presidential Decree 828 to assist the Supreme Court in the exercise of said power of administrative supervision.
De Casto is expected to testify also in connection with charges that Sereno falsified a Temporary Restraining Order in the case filed by the party list group Coalition of Associations of Senior Citizens of the Philippines.
Aside from De Castro, Court Administrator Midas Marquez also appeared to testify in connection with related charges in the impeachment complaint of Gadon against Sereno.
Source: House of Representatives