CHIEF JUSTICE Teresita Leonardo-De Castro on Monday called for “respect” from the other co-equal branches of government.
Ms. De Castro spoke before the staff of the Supreme Court at her first flag ceremony as its chief justice.
Also on Monday at the House of Representatives, the committee on justice said it will look into the liability of the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) in qualifying Maria Lourdes P.A. Sereno when she vied for the chief justice post.
At the Supreme Court, Ms. De Castro affirmed the independence of the judiciary, saying the high court must be “left alone” with its decisions.
“We demand respect from the other members co-equal and coordinate branch of the government,” she said.
“The other members of the co-equal and independent branches of the government should understand that based on our constitutional order, the decisions reached by the justices of the Supreme Court, whether unanimously or by majority vote, must be respected,” Ms. De Castro also said.
She added: “We should be left alone to decide the fate of this institution without interference. We, more than anyone else, will be affected if we decide wrongly a case which will affect the integrity and the fate of this institution, and each of the justices have done that, studying meticulously the Constitution, the law and the evidence on record.”
“People outside will like to judge us from what they see from afar but it is us, the justices and the employees and officials of the court, (who) know what is happening inside the Supreme Court.”
“And we should be left alone to decide for ourselves,” Ms. De Castro said, drawing cheers from the crowd.
President Rodrigo R. Duterte appointed Ms. De Castro chief justice on Aug. 24, following the JBC’s submission of its shortlist of candidates. She took her oath before the SC on Aug. 28 and before the President on Aug. 31.
Ms. De Castro is set to retire on Oct. 8 when she turns 70, the mandatory age for retirement.
Also on Monday, Assistant Court Administrator and Supreme Court Chief Public Information Officer (PIO) Theodore O. Te confirmed he has resigned.
Mr. Te said Ms. De Castro has accepted his resignation.
He will introduce on Tuesday, Sept. 4, acting chief PIO Maria Victoria Gleoresty Guerra.
In his resignation letter dated Aug. 29 addressed to Ms. De Castro, Mr. Te said he would tender his “irrevocable resignation as Assistant Court Administrator and Chief of the Public Information Office.”
“I believe that Your Honor should be given a free hand to craft your own media policies and to appoint a person whom Your Honor believes could best implement those policies,” he also said, adding:
“I am returning to full-time academic life, which I had put on hold starting 2013 to be able to serve the judiciary and the Supreme Court. I respectfully believe that I would be of greater value to the judiciary and the Court in the academic world at this time.”
Mr. Te posted on his social media account “I dissent!” on May 11, when Chief Justice Maria Lourdes P. Sereno was ousted by her associates through the quo warranto petition filed by Solicitor-General Jose C. Calida.
Mr. Te is coterminous with Ms. Sereno, who appointed him in 2012.
At the House, justice committee vice-chairperson Vicente S. E. Veloso said in a press briefing on the plan to look into the JBC, “They should be held liable… all of those who conspired in qualifying Sereno for an interview when in fact she was not qualified.”
“It has been established that there was fraud in including Sereno in the list of interviewees of applicants for the position of chief justice. That was established on record, and I think there was a position taken by the chair na dapat ihabla sila (that they should be charged),” Mr. Veloso also said.
The remarks came ahead of the initial consideration for the impeachment complaints filed by opposition lawmakers against the seven associate justices, including Ms. De Castro, who granted the quo warranto case that invalidated Ms. Sereno’s appointment as chief justice.
The committee is set to hold on Tuesday the initial consideration of the seven individual complaints for culpable violation of the Constitution and betrayal of public trust.
Justices de Castro, Diosdado M. Peralta, Lucas P. Bersamin, Andres B. Reyes, Francis H. Jardeleza, Noel G. Tijam, and Alexander G. Gesmundo were among those who voted for the quo warranto petition. Not included is Ombudsman Samuel L. Martires as he is no longer an associate justice of the high court.
The complaints were filed by Albay Rep. Edcel C. Lagman, Magdalo Rep. Gary C. Alejano, Ifugao Rep. Teddy B. Baguilat, Jr. and Akbayan Rep. Tomasito S. Villarin. — reports by Vann Marlo M. Villegas and Charmaine A. Tadalan