EMBATTLED Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno will take a two week “wellness leave” beginning Thursday to prepare for her defense in the on-going impeachment proceedings.
This was learned following published newspaper reports which says seven members of the high tribunal asked Sereno to go on indefinite leave.
According to the report, which was sourced from reliable Supreme Court (SC) informants, the high tribunal had an en banc session last Tuesday where seven justices allegedly demanded that Sereno go on indefinite leave.
The seven magistrates – Associate Justices Lucas P. Bersamin, Teresita Leonardo-De Castro, Francis Jardeleza, Mario Victor “Marvic” F. Leonen, Samuel Martires, Diosdado M. Peralta and Noel Tijam – reportedly raised the allegations against Sereno in the impeachment case against her as reasons for their demand.
The informants also said Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio will be the SC’s acting Chief Justice in the absence of Sereno.
Meanwhile, Sereno’s spokesperson, human rights lawyer Josa Deinla, denied insinuations that the CJ’s decision to go on a “wellness leave” was prompted by the demand of her seven colleagues. At the same time, she also stressed that the CJ’s leave of absence is not indefinite.
“Not indefinite. Duration is March 1 to 15. It has already been scheduled from March 15 to 23 but she is advancing it so she can prepare for her defense at the Senate,” she said in a text message.
As this developed, the National Union of People’s Lawyers Chairman Neri Colmenares said the Sereno’s leave of absence have exposed the “widening” cracks in the SC.
“If the reports are accurate, we seriously regret that the concerned Justices have prejudged the impeachment proceedings that is yet to be concluded at the House of Representatives or of a possible trial in the Senate,” Colmenares, a former Bayan Muna party-list representative, said in a statement.
“If true, this exposes the widening cracks in the institution which impact on the independence of the Judiciary, the Court’s very integrity, and ironically, on respect for the Constitution apparently because of political designs, personal considerations, or convenient acquiescence to the dark side,” he stressed.
Moreover, Colmenares said that the SC justices have “practically impeached” Sereno by asking her to go on leave.
“Worse, the said Justices have practically impeached their own colleague, instead of letting the process take its course in accordance with the Constitution they swore to uphold and to stand as supposed symbols of law and justice,” he said.
Colemenares also noted that “the losing party here is not the Chief Justice nor any Justice of the Court. It is also not the Court or the entire judicial system. It is the residual faith of the people in already unresponsive institutions whose roles are being wilted away, willingly or unwillingly, to de facto authoritarianism.”