House panel invites five more justices
FIVE more associate justices of the Supreme Court have also been invited by the House of Representatives to testify in the ongoing impeachment proceedings against Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno when hearings resume in January next year.
This will bring to nine the number of Sereno’s colleagues who would testify before the House of committee on justice, which is conducting hearingson the impeachment complaint filed by lawyer Lorenzo Gadon.
Judicial sources disclosed that Associate Justices Diosdado Peralta, Lucas Bersamin, Mariano del Castillo, Samuel Martires and Andres Reyes Jr. have also been invited by the justice committee to appear in the hearings.
Earlier, Associate Justices Teresita Leonardo-De Castro, Francis Jardeleza and Noel Tijam took the witness stand, along with retired associate justice Arturo Brion.
Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio was also invited to attend the Jan. 18 hearing, but he has not yet committed to testifying until he knows which charges against Sereno he will be asked about.
Should the other six SC justices decide to testify, this would bring to nine the incumbent magistrates testifying before the impeachment proceedings in the House, which constitutes more than the majority of the 15-member bench.
On Nov.28, the SC allowed its justices and officials invited by the House to testify in the impeachment proceedings against Sereno.
Voting unanimously, Sereno’s fellow magistrates in the Court decided to allow members of the judiciary to testify in hearings on issues raised in the impeachment complaint.
The justices and court officials were allowed to discuss administrative matters raised in the impeachment case.
During his appearance before the House, 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 Supreme Court and excluding him from the shortlist of the Judicial and Bar Council (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.
In August the Court allowed 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 regional constitutional administrative office (RCAO) in Cebu without the collegial approval of the Court.
Sereno’s camp on Sunday scored the “apparent psywar campaign” to condition the mind of the public for her removal as chief justice.
One of her lawyers, Winnie Salumbides, said statements made inside and outside the hearings of the House committee on justice were purely hearsay, personal opinions, innuendos and optics to persuade the public into thinking that there is a basis to oust the chief justice.