Nothing can stop Maria Lourdes Sereno from speaking her mind now, even if it means burning bridges with former colleagues at the Supreme Court (SC).
“I know exactly who led the rally. I know it was Midas Marquez, and these people have been with him for a long time, and contrary to my request that they do not, and even my supporters that they should not join any statement, even supportive of me, I was disappointed because we were used, unfortunately,” Sereno told Rappler on Tuesday evening, June 19.
Asked if it appeared as if they were manipulated or “nauto“, Sereno replied: “Huwag natin sigurong gamitin yung nauto ‘no (let’s not say that they were manipulated into doing it but), self-interest is there, barkadahan (clique) is there, ah, factionalism is there. On the other hand, I wasn’t voicing my opinion on anything because I was really hoping for a Senate trial to come about, so I just wish them well, I wish that for those who are well-intentioned that the reforms continue. Because I guess they have a lot of problems to address.”
The conflict between Sereno and Marquez is widely known among Court insiders. Marquez is an ally of the late former chief justice Renato Corona, who saw Sereno’s entry to the court as “a new period of difficulty and embarrassment.”
Later on when Corona was ousted and she was appointed chief justice, Sereno sidelined Marquez from key functions such as the decentralization project and screening of applications for survivorship benefits.
The employees who called for Sereno’s resignation had claimed that their promotions and their benefits were always delayed during the 5 years that Sereno was chief justice.
But Sereno insisted she was a victim of propaganda.
“I know who these are, and it is clear in my mind why they did it. So, not a problem, because on the other hand I received so many statements of support, and remember, so many judges and even employees’ associations said that they are not going to participate in the call for resignation, considering the kind of propaganda machinery that was set against me, wow that was strong, until now I receive strong statements of affirmation from them.”
Earlier on Tuesday, Sereno name-dropped another SC official.
Sereno said that during the impeachment hearings at the House of Representatives, Associate Justice Diosdado Peralta was told by Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas that the Lower House would put on hold the judiciary’s budget if the Supreme Court did not cooperate in turning over documents that would help them impeach her. Fariñas said this was a lie.
Sereno also revealed that it was SC Spokesman Theodore Te who informed her about it. It’s unclear whether this was official communication, or if Sereno unwittingly put Te at odds with Peralta by involving him.
Sereno hired Te to be the Court spokesman in 2012. They know each other from the University of the Philippines (UP) College of Law.
Another UP colleague whom Sereno seems to be in conflict with is Associate Justice Marvic Leonen.
Leonen was blamed by Sereno supporters for being a supposed accomplice in the plan to force her to go on indefinite leave in February. Thirteen justices later signed a joint statement saying it was a consensus of the Court, including Sereno.
Leonen might have dissented in the quo warranto decisions, but his separate opinion was still scathing, saying Sereno failed to show leadership.
It is obvious that relations in the Court are strained, but Sereno said she is not worried even though there are still pending administrative cases against her, including possible violations in procurement, and even a potential disbarment charge.
“There’s nothing to be afraid of, my conscience is perfectly clear,” Sereno said. – Rappler.com