Carpio will not testify in Sereno impeachment hearing

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – Supreme Court (SC) Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio has declined the invitation to testify in the House justice committee hearing on the impeachment complaint against Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno.

"I declined because I have no personal knowledge of the matters the committee specified as the matters of inquiry," Carpio said.

Carpio earlier wrote committee chairman Representative Reynaldo Umali, asking for a list of topics that he will be asked during the hearing.

Originally, Carpio's name was mentioned in the hearing as one of the 3 justices who created the Special Committee on Retirement and Civil Service Benefits – an added layer which allegedly delayed the granting of survivorship benefits to widows of retired judges and justices.

But things changed when Associate Justice Francis Jardeleza accused Sereno of treason in his testimony, in relation to his exclusion in the shortlist to be a justice.

The Sereno camp then pointed to Carpio, as having been the one to raise to the Chief Justice the integrity question of Jardeleza who allegedly wanted to exclude Itu Aba in the Philippine pleading before the arbitral tribunal.

Reasons for declining

The House justice committee confirmed receiving Carpio's letter declining the invitation. The next hearing is scheduled on Monday, January 15.

In the letter to the committee, Carpio listed down his reasons:

1. On Sereno’s alleged falsification of a Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) in the case of the Senior Citizens Partylist: “I wish to state I have no personal knowledge of this matter.”

2. On Sereno’s alleged delaying tactic in the transfer of Maute cases: “I was on Wellness Leave on 19 June 2017, the day the Maute cases were raffled. I was out of the country from 19 June to 3 July 2017.”

3. On Sereno’s supposed lie that some justices asked her to do away with the voting for recommendees to the High Court: “I have no personal knowledge of this matter.”

Carpio added, however, that he believes the Court should do away with voting by the Justices since "the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) is an independent constitutional body and in any event it has not been following the recommendations of the Court for several years in the past.”

4. On Sereno’s hiring of an IT consultant allegedly with excessive compensation without public bidding: “I wish to state that I have no personal knowledge how such consultancy contract was procured.” He also said he got to know about the hiring of the consultant after the contract was questioned – long after the contract was implemented and renewed. Carpio added that this issue is being deliberated by the Court en banc.

5. Though Carpio had previously asked the committee for specific topics, the invitation was still general as it said he would be asked about “all other allegations involving administrative matters and internal rules and procedures of the Supreme Court.”

Carpio told the committee: “I wish to state that unless the allegations are made specific, I will not be able to comment or testify on such allegations.”

Carpio and Sereno have voted similarly on major cases in the recent past. Sereno's clout in the Supreme Court has, however, been perceived to have weakened because of the public testimonies by justices against her.  – with a report from Bea Cupin/Rappler

Lian Buan

Lian Buan covers justice and corruption for Rappler. She is interested in decisions, pleadings, audits, contracts, and other documents that establish a trail. If you have leads, email lian.buan@rappler.com or tweet @lianbuan.

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