Another SC justice to attend impeachment hearing

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Associate Justice Samuel L. Martires listens during the bail hearing of alleged pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles on August 29, 2014 at the Sandiganbayan, Batasan Hills, in Quezon City. -- BW FILE PHOTO

ANOTHER Supreme Court justice is expected to join the resource persons who will testify in the House committee on justice’s inquiry on the impeachment complaint against Chief Justice Maria Lourdes P.A. Sereno.

According to Oriental Mindoro Rep. Reynaldo V. Umali, committee chairman, Associate Justice Samuel R. Martires is set to testify regarding the purchase of a Toyota Land Cruiser 2017, an asset cited in the complaint filed by lawyer Lorenzo G. Gadon to point out Ms. Sereno’s alleged lavish lifestyle. A check on the Internet shows the vehicle to be priced around P5 million.

Mr. Martires is scheduled to appear before the committee on Monday, Dec. 11.

On Wednesday’s hearing, lawmakers inquired how Ms. Sereno came to be in charge of the administrative matter regarding the request of Justice Vitaliano N. Aguirre II to transfer the cases involving the Maute Group outside of Mindanao.

Ms. Sereno’s spokespersons explained that the assignment of the case to her “was confirmed by the members of the raffle composed of three justices of the Supreme Court.”

In his complaint, Mr. Gadon had alleged that Ms. Sereno manipulated and thereafter delayed the resolution of A.M. No. 17-06-02-SC dated June 6 (Designating the Court of Appeals, Cagayan de Oro Station, and the Regional Trial Courts of Cagayan De Oro City to Hear, Try, and Decide Cases and Incidents Arising From and Related to the Maute Group Take Over of Marawi City).

Ms. Sereno’s counsels said she “acted promptly” on Mr. Aguirre’s written request, and at a time when the Supreme Court was in recess. The request was made part of the agenda of the SC en banc when the high court reconvened on June 6.

SAGIP party-list Representative Rodante Marcoleta asked resource person and Clerk of Court Felipa B. Anama how A.M. No. 17-06-02-SC came to be “raffled” to Ms. Sereno.

Ms. Anama explained that the numbers 1 to 15 are assigned to each Justice in order of seniority (1 for Chief Justice Sereno, 2 for Justice Antonio Carpio, and so on). A tambiolo (lottery drum) is used, and Justice Carpio, as the chairman of the en banc raffle committee, picks a number. The case then goes to the name the number corresponds to.

But, in this particular instance, Ms. Anama said, the case was Ms. Sereno’s from the start because the agenda had already been acted upon. “Whoever acted upon the matter, and discussed this in the en banc, it becomes his or hers,” she explained to the committee.

Maliwanagwalang nangyaring raffle (It is clear, then … no raffle occurred),” Marcoleta concluded.

Ms. Anama affirmed that, on June 19, A.M. No. 17-06-02-SC was part of the items to be raffled, but given the circumstances, it became Ms. Sereno’s.

Ms. Sereno’s spokespersons explained further: “As the letter of the Secretary of Justice was personally addressed to her and considering the urgency of the matter, she discussed the matter with the Supreme Court en banc even prior to the matter being raffled. Since the Supreme Court en banc acted on the request, the raffle committee assigned the administrative matter to the Chief Justice consistent with the standard practice of the Clerk of Court. The administrative matter was part of the raffle proceedings and, although it was assigned to the Chief Justice, the assignment was confirmed by the members of the raffle committee composed of three justices of the Supreme Court.”

For his part, Compostela Valley 2nd District Ruwel Peter Gonzaga asked Mr. Gadon about his allegation that Ms. Sereno called up Justice Noel Tijam for the transfer of the Maute cases to be assigned to him.

Mr. Gadon confirmed that he, indeed, alleged this.

Mr. Umali then read Ms. Sereno’s answer, where she said that, contrary to Mr. Gadon’s “hearsay,” Mr. Tijam actually circulated a letter to the members of the court expressing his opinion and vote on Mr. Aguirre’s request. Based on her answer, the Chief Justice also said that Mr. Tijam’s letter was not a draft resolution on the matter.

Ms. Anama said it was normal for the justices to pass around their opinions to one another.

Mr. Umali then asked Ms. Gadon about Ms. Sereno’s denial that Mr. Tijam’s letter was a draft of the resolution.

Mr. Gadon replied that, as far as he knew, Mr. Tijam’s opinion was his position on the matter, and he wrote it because Ms. Sereno told him the case was assigned to him. — Tricia Aquino of News5/, with M.N.R. Dela Cruz