Journalist Jomar Canlas today stood pat on his June 4, 2013 article in the Manila Times which said that Supreme Court Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno unilaterally altered a Temporary Restraining Order that prevented the Commission on Elections from further proclaiming winning groups in the party list elections.
The article said SC Justice Teresita Leonardo De Castro, who was the justice originally assigned to write the decision on the case or the ponencia, gave Sereno a tongue-lashing over the altered TRO. Likewise, the article said other SC justices threatened to confront Sereno over the same issue.
Instead of covering only the Senior Citizens Party List, Sereno issued a blanket TRO and thus other groups not party to the case benefited from it.
The alleged tampering of the TRO was among the grounds complainant Atty. Larry Gadon raised in his impeachment complaint against Sereno.
I stand by my story that such incident transpired, Canlas told the Justice Committee. He also insisted that other details he mentioned in the article were accurate.
He claimed to have read a letter from Sereno admitting the alteration of the TRO, although he said he can no longer locate his copy of the document. Canlas said the committee may be able to obtain a copy of the letter from the Supreme Court.
However, Canlas denied that his source of information for the story was Justice De Castro. While admitting he met and talked with Gadon in March this year about the issue, Canlas denied he told the lawyer that his source for the story was Justice De Castro.
I have several sources in the judiciary and I try to verify my story from different sources, Canlas said, noting he has developed contacts from the judiciary which he has been covering for 20 years.
Canlas said only the SC can say if Sereno's action is irregular or not. Yet, he said that from his experience in covering the SC since the time of Chief Justice Andres Narvasa up to the present, he could not recall a similar incident of an altered TRO.
As far as his knowledge of the usual court processes, Canlas said: The Chief Justice deviated from the regular lane.
But Canlas refused to divulge his sources to the committee, invoking the RA. 53, as amended by RA 1477, law which protects journalists from any compulsion to reveal sources who revealed information to them in confidence unless it concerns the security of the State.
Opposition solon Ramon Rocamora insisted that since Canlas has invoked RA 53, he could not present witnesses to back his article and thus his testimony may be considered hearsay.
According to Canlas his testimony may be corroborated by Justice De Castro when she testifies before the Committee.
De Castro, along with Justice Noel Tijam, earlier sent a letter to the committee informing the panel that they are only awaiting authorization from the high court before testifying in the impeachment proceedings.
For his part, Rep. Vicente Veloso opined that the testimony of Canlas may be considered as an independent relevant evidence, depending upon the evaluation of the committee.
Source: House of Representatives