THE camp of embattled Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno on Sunday disparaged the impact of the testimony of Supreme Court Associate Justice Teresita Leonardo de Castro before the House Committee on Justice should she decide to testify in the hearing of the impeachment complaint against Sereno.
Lawyer Winnie Salumbides said De Castro’s testimony would not affect Sereno’s defense against the impeachment complaint filed by lawyer Lorenzo Gadon.
He made his statement even as an advocacy group prepared to file an ethics complaint against Supreme Court Justice Teresita Leonardo-de Castro for grave and gross misconduct for reportedly leaking confidential court matters aimed at destroying the integrity of the high court.
The Filipino Alliance for Transparency and Empowerment or FATE asked the Supreme Court to investigate and punish De Castro for her alleged gross violations of Supreme Court rules.
“We are concerned citizens who advocate for the independence of the Judiciary. We respectfully file this complaint to investigate and thereafter mete the appropriate penalty against the Hon. Teresita Leonardo de Castro,” FATE wrote in its complaint. The House committee on justice, which is in the process of determining probable cause to impeach Sereno, has already invited De Castro to attend the impeachment hearings to shed light on some of the allegations hurled by Gadon against the top magistrate.
The committee sought De Castro’s appearance after Gadon pointed to De Castro as the source of some information he stated in his complaint, particularly the internal administrative matters of the high court, through a common “friend” whom he identified as newspaper reporter Jomar Canlas.
“Whether or not it will affect our defense, we are not worried at all. We don’t see any reason to be apprehensive,” Salumbides said.
He said it would be “highly irregular” for a magistrate to take the witness stand, especially in an impeachment proceeding against a fellow justice who happens to be the head of the judiciary.
“As a lawyer, I find it highly irregular for a magistrate, for a Supreme Court justice to go down and take the witness stand. I think it’s unconventional for a magistrate to become a witness,” Salumbides said.
The Sereno camp also warned of violation of the confidentiality rule in the Supreme Court by De Castro after she was named as the source of some information and documents by Gadon.