House prepares for SC justices’ testimony in Sereno impeachment hearing

Bea Cupin

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House prepares for SC justices’ testimony in Sereno impeachment hearing
House justice committee chairman Reynaldo Umali says 'at the very least,' Supreme Court Associate Justice Teresita Leonardo-de Castro is ready to testify on Wednesday, November 29

MANILA, Philippines – No repeat of questions and don’t beat around the bush.

Oriental Mindoro 2nd District Representative Reynaldo Umali on Tuesday, November 28, reminded the members of the powerful justice committee to “accord [Supreme Court associate justices] due respect” when they face the committee as resource persons in its hearing on an impeachment complaint against Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno.

Umali made the statement at the end of Tuesday’s hearing, the 3rd the committee has held as it determines probable cause in the complaint filed by lawyer Larry Gadon against Sereno.

The SC en banc on Tuesday voted to allow justices and employees invited by the committee to testify in its hearings “if they so wish.” They may only testify on “administrative matters.”

Associate Justice Teresita Leonardo-de Castro, whom Gadon had repeatedly said would be in the best position to elaborate on the details of occurrences which he claims are impeachable offenses, was allowed to speak on “adjudicative matters,” meaning “matters that go into the decision of cases which would include deliberation of cases,” said SC spokesman Theodore Te. (READ: Manila Times reporter denies info came from Justice De Castro)

The en banc set the following limitations for De Castro’s testimony:

  • 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)

Umali, speaking to reporters after the suspension of the hearing, said his staff has been assured that “at the very least,” De Castro would be ready to testify on Wednesday, November 29. (READ: Inside SC: Justice De Castro vs CJ Sereno?)

Gadon has listed the following individuals from the judiciary as resource persons in his allegations against Sereno:

  • 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 Papa-Gombio
  • Technical Working Group Special Committee on Retirement and Civil Service Benefits Chairperson Jocelyn Fabian
  • Chief Judicial Staff Officer of the Employee’s Welfare and Benefits Division Charlotte Labayani
  • Judicial and Bar Council Executive Officer Annaliza Ty-Capacite
  • former Associate Justice Arturo Brion

De Castro and Tijam’s expected appearance before the committee would mean a few adjustments for the lawmakers, if only to make sure the associate justices’ time would not be wasted. Umali said that in De Castro’s case, they might ask her to speak even on charges they have yet to flesh out, if her testimony is necessary.

Gadon has been criticized by committee members and occasionally, by Umali himself, for seemingly failing to prepare the list of documents and resource persons needed in his complaint. (READ: [OPINION] Gadon crumbles, will House fall with him?–

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Bea Cupin

Bea is a senior multimedia reporter who covers national politics. She's been a journalist since 2011 and has written about Congress, the national police, and the Liberal Party for Rappler.