TWO Supreme Court officials on Wednesday said the P1.9 million spent by the office of Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno on the venue for the third Asean Chief Justices Meeting in March 2015 at Sharngri-La’s Boracay Resort did not go through public bidding.
“It did not go through the Bids and Awards Committee [BAC]. I do not know what process it went through,” said Thelma Bahia, deputy court
Maria Carina Cunanan, assistant chief of the Supreme Court’s administrative services and procurement office, confirmed that no public bidding was done.
On the other hand, the chief of the Court’s fiscal management and budget office, Corazon Flores, said there was no irregularity in the transaction.
“We did not get a notice of disallowance from the Commission on Audit so our presumption was that the transaction was regular and the papers were complete at that time,” Flores said.
Sereno, who has stayed away from the impeachment hearings, earlier denied using the Shangri-La presidential villa for herself alone, saying that it was used as well as the venue for the signing of the “Boracay Accord,” and a photo opportunity of the 10 Asean chief justices.
Sereno said the resort charged P134,192.25 for the use of the presidential villa instead of the regular rate of P280,000.
On Thursday, Sereno denied allegations of impropriety in her appointment of the head of the Supreme Court’s technical working group for survivorship benefits.
In a statement released by her office, Sereno denied that she appointed lawyer Jocelyn Fabian as chairman of the special committee because the latter was a fellow member of her Christian church.
Sereno said Fabian was qualified for the position and underwent the regular application and screening process as she expressed “grave concern that her integrity and values—and even her Christian faith— are being unjustly besmirched.”
“Considering her background, Attorney Fabian is unquestionably highly qualified and well-equipped to assist the judiciary in the identification and resolution of its financial concerns. Her unshakable faith and obedience to the Lord’s guidance have allowed her to contribute tirelessly to the study, implementation, and institutionalization of much-needed systemic changes of a 117-year-old institution,” the chief justice said.
Sereno said Fabian applied for the position in August 2012.
“There were two applicants for the Court Attorney vacancy at the time, and Attorney Fabian was found to be more qualified. After favorable recommendation of the interviewing panel, and a final interview at which the Chief Justice met Attorney Fabian for the first time, attorney Fabian was appointed in May 2013,” the chief magistrate said.
Sereno denied the claim of lawyer Lorenzo Gadon, who filed the impeachment complaint against her, that she met Fabian in her church.
“The Chief Justice and Attorney Fabian do not attend the same church,” she said.
“Attorney Fabian is a welcome asset to the Office of the Chief Justice, not to mention the judiciary as a whole, considering the experience and expertise she brought to public service after 29 long years in the private sector. Attorney Fabian has been certified public accountant since 1985, and a lawyer since 2011,” she added.
Among the impeachment charges against Sereno is the delayed in filling of key vacancies in the Supreme Court. Gadon alleged that the Chief Justice was intentionally delaying the appointments to allow members of her staff to qualify for the posts.
She is also accused of intentionally delaying the approval of survivorship benefits, which was attributed to the TWG.