Three more Supreme Court justices will appear in the impeachment hearings at the House of Representatives to testify against Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, Mindoro Oriental Rep. Reynaldo Umali, head of the House justice committee, said on Monday.
Besides Associate Justice Teresita Leonardo-de Castro, who first appeared on Nov. 29, Associate Justices Francis Jardeleza and Noel Tijam will also attend the proceedings tentatively set for next Monday.
Retired Associate Justice Arturo Brion will also appear, Umali told reporters.
Umali said the justices could not appear before his committee right away because of the “inability of [the Supreme Court] to promulgate” the final text of the tribunal’s Nov. 28 full-court decision permitting them to testify on “administrative matters.”
“Some of the resource persons requested that they be allowed to testify only after the decision is promulgated. I urge the Supreme Court to immediately promulgate it to make things clear,” he said.
JBC nomination process
One of the allegations in lawyer Lorenzo Gadon’s impeachment complaint concerned Sereno’s alleged manipulation of the Judicial and Bar Council’s nomination process to block Jardeleza’s appointment to the Supreme Court.
Sereno allegedly deprived Jardeleza of due process when she questioned his integrity over a matter involving his position in the arbitration of the Philippines’ maritime dispute with China.
This triggered the unanimity rule, which requires the vote of all JBC members for the short-listing of a nominee in case of doubt about his integrity, and nearly cost Jardeleza the Supreme Court position.
The Supreme Court ended up reinstating Jardeleza on the short list and allowing then President Benigno Aquino III to appoint him.
In that case, Brion wrote a concurring opinion that minced no words: “CJ Sereno manipulated the JBC process to exclude Jardeleza as a nominee.”
But Sereno claimed in her Sept. 25 counteraffidavit that she was “entitled to her own opinion” and did not furnish Jardeleza a written statement to keep the process confidential.
Another charge concerned Sereno’s alleged interference in the Department of Justice’s request to transfer the cases against the Maute terror group outside Mindanao. Gadon claimed Tijam was the member in charge of the administrative matter.
Before the justices’ scheduled appearance, five Supreme Court officials sought by Gadon are attending the resumption of the hearing on Tuesday.
Court Administrator Jose Midas Marquez is among the resource persons who will speak about the allegedly delayed action on the numerous petitions for judges’ retirement benefits or spouses’ survivorship benefits.
The other officials are Deputy Clerk of Court En Banc Anna-Li R. Papa-Gombio, chair of the Special Committee on Retirement and Civil Service Benefits; Jocelyn Fabian, chair of the technical working group of the benefits committee, and Chief Judicial Staff Officer Charlotte Labayani of the Employee’s Welfare and Benefits Division of the Office of Administrative Services.
JBC Executive Officer Annaliza Ty-Capacite, meanwhile, will be asked about Sereno’s alleged failure to truthfully disclose her wealth.
Bribe offer to senators?
Gadon, meanwhile, has raised hackles in the Senate by claiming that a businessman is out to bribe senators P200 million each in exchange for acquitting Sereno in the event the case goes to the Senate for trial.
Sen. Panfilo Lacson told reporters on Monday that he had not heard about anyone talking to the senators.
“Maybe it’s his tack to put the senators on the spot if and when the articles of impeachment will be transmitted to us. It’s like he’s already putting us on the spot so that we would convict rather than acquit (Sereno),” Lacson said.
He said he would ask Gadon about it when the case reached the Senate.
“For now I do not want to believe him,” Lacson said.
So far, he said, Gadon has made only “hearsay” statements at the impeachment hearings in the House.
Senators Grace Poe, JV Ejercito and Win Gatchalian said Gadon should identify the businessman who was offering the bribe.
All three told reporters that no one had approached them with a bribe offer.
“[Gadon] should identify his sources. In the first place he has so many inconsistencies and then he would come out with such a story,” Poe said.
Ejercito said Gadon should prove his claim.
Gatchalian said Gadon should focus on his testimony in the House, as the complainant had been making hearsay statements. —With a report from Christine O. Avendaño