'Unprecedented': De Castro testifies at Sereno impeachment hearing

MANILA, Philippines – Teresita Leonardo-de Castro, Associate Justice of the Supreme Court (SC), stood as one of the witnesses as the House committee on justice continued deliberations on an impeachment complaint filed against Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno on Wednesday, November 29.

De Castro’s appearance came a day after the Supreme Court en banc unanimously decided to allow her testimony before the House panel. Sereno recused from the voting.

It’s a rare occurrence in a case that’s gone the farthest in the impeachment process.

“Unprecedented” was how House Majority Leader Representative Rodolfo Fariñas decribed De Castro’s appearance before the committee. Fariñas, who represents the first district of Ilocos Norte, took the first round of questions for the SC associate justice.

“I welcome this opportunity because this will be the right time for me to explain to everyone the process that we have in deciding cases in the Supreme Court. This is also the proper venue where I can correct the misinformation that has been spread many times during this period,” said De Castro, who was accompanied by SC court administrator Midas Marquez.

De Castro was invited by the committee to testify on at least 4 points Gadon cited as supposedly impeachable offenses.

These include Sereno’s creation of the Regional Court Administration Office in Region 7, an alleged falsified temporary restraining order on party-list proclamations, clustering at the Judiciary and Bar Council, and the case involving former Solicitor General and now Associate Justice Francis Jardeleza.

The committee is determining probable cause in the complaint filed by lawyer Larry Gadon.

It will do so until the first week of December. By December 13, committee chairman Reynaldo Umali wants the committee’s eventual report – on whether to reject the complaint or impeach Sereno – to be tackled before plenary.

Several times in the 3 previous hearings to determine probable cause, Gadon has asserted that it’s De Castro who is best equipped to explain the circumstances surrounding these cases.

Aside from De Castro and Marquez, the following Supreme Court officials and employees have been invited by the committee:

Not everyone attended the Wednesday hearing, however.

Brion, for instance, asked to attend at a later date because he was sick. Te asked to appear only after the Supreme Court releases its resolution allowing them to attend the hearing “if they so wish.” – Rappler.com