THREE associate justices of the Supreme Court have asked the House committee on justice for more time to comply with its invitation to testify in impeachment proceedings against Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, saying they need to get approval from the full court.
The committee has invited Associate Justices Teresita Leonardo-De Castro and Noel Tijam and retired associate justice Arturo Brion to appear before the hearing on separate issues raised in the impeachment complaint filed by lawyer Lorenzo Gadon against Sereno.
The three magistrates said they needed more time to answer the invitation because they would seek permission from the Court en banc to attend the hearings Tuesday.
“As soon as the said clearance is granted, I shall honor your invitation to attend the aforementioned hearing,” De Castro said in a letter to the House panel.
In a separate letter, Tijam said: “Considering that this issue involves the actions of the members of the Court, the undersigned deems it appropriate to first secure their approval before participating in the aforesaid proceedings. Likewise, there is a need to collate records for an informed and accurate recollection of relevant information.”
Tijam was invited to testify because of Gadon’s claim that the Sereno interfered his handling of a request from Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II to transfer the venue for criminal cases against members of the Maute terrorist group.
Sereno has contested this allegation, saying she, not Tijam, was the justice in charge.
Brion, for his part, said he would also await the decision of the Court en banc, even though he has already retired from the judiciary.
De Castro, who earlier reportedly agreed to testify, was invited by the Houseto shed light on an internal memo she filed in theSupreme Court in July questioning several administrative orders of Sereno, including the appointment of a Philippine Judicial Academy (Philja) official and provision for travel allowances for her staff.
In the memo, De Castro assailed the appointment of Brenda Jay Mendoza as Philja chief of office for the Philippine Mediation Center, which she said violated their Administrative Order No. 33-2008 that required the appointment for the post to be approved by the SC collegially.
The magistrate also assailed Sereno’s grant of foreign travel allowance to members of her staff without the required approval from the full court.
Lastly, De Castro questioned the “long delay” in the appointment in vacant key positions in the Court pending before Sereno’s office, “which is prejudicial too the best interest of service.”
These issues were among the allegations raised by Gadon in the impeachment complaint against her.
Aguirre, meanwhile, will testify Tuesday on the allegation that Sereno deliberately delayed the order to transfer of cases of Maute members from Cagayan de Oro to Metro Manila.
“I will attend the hearing on Tuesday,” Aguirre said, in an interview.
In his impeachment complaint, lawyer Larry Gadon cited 27 acts where Sereno allegedly betrayed public trust, committed corruption, and other high crimes, particularly the untruthful declaration of her wealth in her statement of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN)—the same grounds that allies of former President Benigno Aquino III used to oust then Chief Justice Renato Corona in 2012.