MANILA, Philippines – The Supreme Court (SC) en banc announced on Thursday, March 1, that Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno’s indefinite leave was a consensus of all the justices present during the session on Tuesday, February 27.
“The justices present arrived at a consensus that the Chief Justice should take an indefinite leave,” SC Spokesman Theodore Te said on Thursday, reading the joint statement of the justices.
The joint statement was signed by all 13 justices, with the exception of Sereno and Associate Justice Benjamin Caguioa who was on leave.
The 13 justices also said, “The Chief Justice herself announced that she was taking an indefinite leave.”
“The Chief Justice did not request the rescheduling of her wellness leave,” they added.
What does this mean? It puts to rest speculations that only a number of justices wanted Sereno to go on leave.
What does it mean for Sereno? It means that the 13 justices are contradicting the official narrative of Sereno’s camp which said it was the Chief Justice’s personal decision to avail of her wellness leave earlier than scheduled.
The 13 justices said they “regret the confusion that the announcements and media releases of the spokespersons of the Chief Justice have caused, which seriously damaged the integrity of the Judiciary in general and the Supreme Court in particular.”
“In the ordinary course of events, the Court expected the Chief Justice to cause the announcement of only what was really agreed upon without any modification or embellishment. This matter shall be dealt with in a separate proceeding,” said the 13 justices. (READ: Why SC justices forced Sereno to go on leave)
What’s next? The fissures inside the High Court continue with another clash between the Chief Justice and her colleagues on the bench.
There is also a question of whether there is legal basis to force her to take a leave.
What is the situation at the SC now? Sereno begins her indefinite leave Thursday. Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio is the Acting Chief Justice and will preside over the succeeding en banc sessions. He will be the acting chair of the Presidential Electoral Tribunal (PET) and the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC).
Associate Justice Teresita Leonardo de Castro assumes chairmanship of the First Division while Sereno is on leave.
When does her leave end? Sereno wrote in her formal notice to the en banc that it will be “until I shall have completed my preparation for the Senate trial.”
Court sources said the en banc agreed it should be until the end of the entire impeachment process.
LOOK: Statement of the 13 Supreme Court justices pic.twitter.com/SRDy2glQ0R— Lian Buan (@lianbuan) March 1, 2018