CHIEF Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno on Thursday appealed to her constituents in the judiciary to focus on their duties despite the impeachment process against her in Congress.
“To the men and women of the judiciary, please continue to focus on your work. Nothing should distract us. There is much to be done for this country,” Sereno said in her speech during the 14th Metrobank Foundation Professorial Chair Lecture in the Supreme Court.
“Continue your work undistracted professionally and excellently as you have been doing in the past.
Sereno made the appeal after Associate Justice Teresita Leonardo-de Castro and other ranking high court officials testified before the impeachment proceedings in the House of Representatives justice committee, and as three or four more magistrates are expected to appear in the hearings next week.
Sereno said it was also necessary for the members of the judiciary to “monitor and watch and be on the lookout for the hallmarks of independence, integrity and dignity of the judiciary to be preserved.”
“It is most important to me that the dignity and independence of the judiciary is preserved. and that has been the principle I have been observing in my conduct in all of these times,” she said.
Sereno also insisted on her innocence over the charges in the impeachment complaint filed by lawyer Lorenzo Gadon.
“I have submitted myself to this process according to the rights that are accorded in my position. And I hope that you have taken it in good faith that my intent is to defend the dignity and independence of the judiciary,” Sereno said.
“In various fora, I have already tried to encapsulate in very, very brief form why the charges against me should bear no sufficient basis.”
Sereno said she opted not to attend the impeachment hearing against her in the House and decried the decision of the House justice committee to deny her lawyers the opportunity to cross- examine the witnesses summoned by the panel, calling it a violation of her constitutional rights.
Apart from De Castro, Associate Justice Francis Jardeleza, Noel Tijam and Samuel Martires and retired Associate Justice Arturo Brian are expected to testify in the impeachment hearings next week.
De Castro testified on some of the 27 allegations raised by Gadon in his impeachment complaint against Sereno, including the administrative case involving Sereno’s order creating a regional court administration office in Cebu without the high court’s collegial approval.
Besides this issue, De Castro also testified on the temporary restraining order in the case involving a disqualification case of Senior Citizens party-list group in the elections.
She also testified on the merits of the decision she penned that declared unconstitutional the clustering of shortlisted nominees made by the Judicial and Bar Council last year in connection with the vacancies in the Sandiganbayan.
De Castro has also been authorized by the Court 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 then Solicitor General Francis Jardeleza on the shortlist of nominees for high court justice post after Sereno raised an integrity issue against him.
De Castro was joined by Court Administrator Jose Midas Marquez in testifying before the impeachment hearing. He discussed the administrative processes in the high court.