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Psychiatrists to be invited to impeachment hearing

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Sereno
This photo taken on August 25, 2016 shows Supreme Court Chief Justice Lourdes Sereno listening to a question during a press conference in Manila. — AFP

By Tricia Aquino
Interaksyon

MANILA — The House committee on justice will invite the psychiatrists who supposedly “gave failing marks on the psychiatric or psychological make-up” of Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno during the impeachment hearings against her, the panel’s chair, Oriental Mindoro Representative Reynaldo Umali, said on Monday at the resumption of hearings in 2018.

The psychiatrists were “allegedly ‘fired’ or whose contracts were not renewed upon the assumption of the Chief Justice,” he said.

In her verified answer to the impeachment complaint filed against her by lawyer Lorenzo Gadon, Ms. Sereno denied that she “failed the psychological examination administered by the JBC (Judicial and Bar Council)” and that under the existing JBC policy, “an applicant to any position in the judiciary with a grade of four is unfit for the job.” These accusations were false, she said.

“There is no such provision whatsoever in JBC-009, or the Rules of the JBC in effect when the Chief Justice applied for a position in the Judiciary,” her answer read.

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Aside from that, according to her verified answer, “under JBC No. 2016-01, or the Revised Rules of the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC Rules) presently in force, the results of the psychological examination of an applicant are to be used solely by the Council ‘for evaluation purposes only,’”

Her answer also stated that under the JBC Rules, results of such examinations are “strictly confidential and are used solely by the JBC for evaluation purposes.” Ms. Sereno had “not consented to the release of her evaluation results to complainant or any third party,” thus, “any copy in their hands is one obtained in violation of the JBC Rules, doctor-patient privilege, and/or the Chief Justice’s right to privacy.”

According to a press release from the House of Representatives Press and Public Affairs Bureau, there had been reports that two psychiatrists hired by the JBC gave Ms. Sereno a rating of “4” from a scale of 1 to 5, with “5” being the lowest. This grade meant that while she projected a “happy mood,” she also exhibited “depressive markers.”

The same press release noted that after the test results were revealed, Ms. Sereno, who was chairman of the JBC, refused to renew the contracts of the two psychiatrists and terminated them in 2013.

But in her verified answer, it was pointed out that Ms. Sereno’s evaluation results are “irrelevant to these proceedings as they do not constitute any of the acts alleged in the complaint as grounds for impeachment.”

“Even if true, a ‘4’ in the alleged evaluation is not an offense, let alone an impeachable one,” her verified answer read.

It was also included there that the psychiatrists “were under short-term consultancy contracts,” which were “no longer renewed by the JBC after the expiration of their respective terms.”

This decision “was arrived at by the JBC as a collegial body after a thorough review of the methodology, performance, qualifications, and relevant training of said individuals.”

As for Mr. Gadon’s allegation that Ms. Sereno “flies into a rage every time the issue of psychiatric testing comes up during deliberations in the JBC,” the verified answer said that this was “false, baseless, and . . . hearsay.”

It added that the allegation was not based on Mr. Gadon’s personal knowledge, but on “unsubstantiated and false news reports.”

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