Justice De Castro 'very much willing' to testify vs Sereno, says Larry Gadon
MANILA, Philippines – Supreme Court (SC) Associate Justice Teresita Leonardo-de Castro is “very much” willing to testify against Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno in the ongoing impeachment proceedings at the House of Representatives, lawyer Larry Gadon told the House panel hearing the case on Wednesday, November 22.
Gadon, the complainant in the impeachment complaint against Sereno, gave the assurance to Oriental Mindoro 2nd District Representative Reynaldo Umali when the chairman of the House justice committee asked him to secure the affidavits of the witnesses he would tap in his complaint against Sereno.
“Justice De Castro is very much willing to execute an affidavit and testify,” Gadon told the panel.
When asked, Gadon said he knew that De Castro would be willing to testify at the impeachment hearing through a "friend who is talking to her on my behalf."
Rappler tried to get in touch with De Castro through the SC Public Information Office, but the statement she issued was on a different matter: her response to Gadon's claim that she was the source of a news report about her tiff with Sereno over a temporary restraining order, which is included in the complaint.
Gadon said he got this information from Manila Times reporter Jomar Canlas, who wrote the report.
In response, De Castro said in a statement, “I have never released to Jomar Canlas any information, report, or document regarding the work of the Court."
Canlas, a veteran SC reporter, has written many exclusive stories on the High Court, citing sources. In 2016, the SC en banc issued a show cause order against him to explain why he should not be cited in indirect contempt for reporting insider information.
During the hearing, Gadon referred to De Castro many times in response to questions regarding this allegations in his complaint, saying she would be the best person to respond to questions about the TRO issue.
"The best resource person is Associate Justice De Castro," the lawyer said.
Gadon referred to De Castro so many times that Dinagat Representative Kaka Bagao ask him: "Sino ba ang complainant, ikaw ba or si Justice....Nalilito ako kung sino ang complainant dito. Hindi mo naipapaliwanag, turo ka nang turo kay Justice."
(Who is the complainant here, you or the Justice?...I'm confused on who the complainant is. You can't explain fully, you keep on pointing to the Justice.)
During the hearing, Gadon said that after he read Canlas' report on Sereno's supposed falsified Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) on party-list proclamations in 2013, he talked to the journalist to get details of the report, including who his source is.
The committee said it will subpoena Canlas.
Grilled why Sereno would falsify a document that she has to issue herself, Gadon said De Castro sent Sereno an initial TRO as the head of the division handling the case. Gadon said what Sereno issued eventually was different.
“Yes, it was really substantially amended and when, as I understand, from the facts that was given to me by Jomar Canlas, it was only after Justice De Castro confronted Justice Sereno that the TRO was replaced and rectified,” Gadon said.
In her written answer sent to the committee, Sereno said that as Chief Justice, she has the authority to issue a TRO when the petition is filed during recess.
“She simply did not fully adopt the recommended draft order submitted to her for approval. The Chief Justice cannot possibly falsify, tamper with or alter a TRO issued under her own authority,” the answer reads.
SC eventually corrected the TRO that in effect contained De Castro’s ruling, but Sereno said that was also the en banc, acting on its power to review the Chief Justice’s TRO decisions while on recess.
De Castro is also the justice who sent a memorandum to other justices questioning some of the actions of Sereno, some of which appeared in Gadon's complaint.
'Violation of SC rules'
Sereno's spokesperson, Josa Deinla, said that De Castro would be in violation of the Internal Rules of the SC if Gadon's claims are true.
"Atty Gadon’s disclosure that his source of information for Supreme Court Internal Memorandum is no other than Senior Justice Teresita De Castro, if indeed true, reveals that Senior Justice De Castro clearly violated the Internal Rules of the Supreme Court," Deinla said in a statement.
"The Internal Rules of the Supreme Court prominently safeguards the confidentiality of Supreme Court sessions and its internal documents," she added.
Deinla said that under the rules, Supreme Court sessions "are executive in character, with only the Members of the Supreme Court present."
"The Supreme Court deliberations are confidential and shall not be disclosed to outside parties, except if authorized by the Supreme Court," she said.
Deinla added that based on on SC rules, "the Supreme Court rollos may only be released upon an official written request from the Judicial Staff Head or the Chief of Office of the requesting Office."
"All persons handling the rollos are bound by the same strict confidentiality rules," she said.
The House panel is determining probable cause in the impeachment complaint against Sereno before the case is forwarded to the Senate sitting as an impeachment court. – Rappler.com