MANILA, Philippines (3rd UPDATE) – The Supreme Court (SC) en banc on Tuesday, November 28, voted unanimously to allow “if they so wish” all justices and employees invited by the House justice committee to testify in hearings on the impeachment complaint against Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno.
They can testify only “administrative matters,” SC Spokesperson Theodore Te announced. All 14 justices except Sereno voted for the decision. The Chief Justice recused from the voting, according to Te.
“The court is not requiring them, but the court is granting them clearance if they wish to testify on administrative matters,” Te announced on Tuesday.
The House committee wants to invite several Supreme Court officials and personalities, incuding Supreme Court Associate Justice Teresita Leonardo-de Castro, to stand as witnesses or resource persons in the House that is hearing allegations of lawyer Larry Gadon against Sereno. (READ: How Sereno answered her impeachment complaint)
On “adjucative matters”, the en banc allowed only De Castro to testify. “Adjudicative, meaning matters that go into the decision of cases which would include deliberations of cases,” Te said.
But this clearance for De Castro, Te said, also has its limits:
- On the issuance of the TRO on the Senior Citizens case and the exchange of communications between herself and the Chief Justice, and not on any matters pertaining to deliberations of the case on the merits.
- On the clustering case in the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC), De Castro has been authorized by the Court to discuss the merits of her main decision but not the deliberations that went into that decision.
- In the case involving then Solicitor General and now Associate Justice Francis Jardeleza, De Castro is authorized to discuss the merits of her separate concurring opinion and again, not the deliberations that went into the decision. (READ: The inside story: Jardeleza accused of disloyalty to PH)
The Jardeleza case involves his appointment to the High Court. Jardeleza was initially excluded from the shortlist for the SC and Sereno insisted that the vote for him be unanimous.
Jardeleza then challenged Sereno before the SC, which ended up siding with him. Jardeleza, who had been accused of disloyalty, was eventually appointed.
The following SC officials and personalities have been listed as resource persons in the Gadon complaint:
- Associate Justice Teresita Leonardo-de Castro
- Associate Justice Noel Tijam
- Court Administrator Jose Midas Marquez
- SC Clerk of Court Felipa Anama
- SC Public Information Office Chief Theodore Te
- Deputy Clark of Court En Banc and Chairperson of the Special Committee on Retirement and Civil Service Benefits Chairperson Anna-Li R. Papa-Gombio
- Technical Wortking Group Special Committee on Retirement and Civil Service Benefits Chairperson Jocelyn Fabian
- Chief Judicial Staff Officer, Employee’s Welfare and Benefits Division Charlotte Labayani
- Judicial and Bar Council Executive Officer Annaliza Ty-Capacite
- Former Associate Justice Arturo Brion