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De Castro: Sereno revised TRO, violated procedures

Supreme Court Associate Justice Teresita Leonardo-de Castro testified yesterday and confirmed allegations that impeachment respondent Chief Justice Maria Lourdes P.A. Sereno violated procedures by revising a recommendation for a Temporary Restraining Order of a petition assigned to De Castro.

At the resumption of the hearing on the impeachment case against Sereno conducted by the House Committee on Justice, De Castro also revealed that an ethics body created by the late former Chief Justice Renato C. Corona to receive complaints against SC members was deactivated by the embattled Chief Justice when she no longer extended the body’s existence.

Supreme Court Associate Justice Teresita Leonardo-de Castro (Kevin Espiritu)

Supreme Court Associate Justice Teresita Leonardo-de Castro (Kevin Espiritu)

De Castro, a former Sandiganbayan associate justice, said newspaper reports claiming that she gave Sereno a “tongue lashing” was “exaggerated” although she spoke her mind when she confronted the Chief Magistrate for attributing to De Castro a “to whom it may concern” TRO that Sereno issued.

Lawyer Lorenzo Gadon raised the TRO issue as among the 27 impeachable acts that Sereno allegedly committed. He said the Chief Justice “falsified” the TRO on the Senior Citizens partylist petition when she changed De Castro’s recommendation for the issuance of the temporary injunction that prevented the Commission on Elections from proclaiming party-list winners in the 2013 elections.

Under SC rules, De Castro, having been assigned the SCP petition, was supposed to make the recommendation for TRO which she did.

The SC magistrate said that since the SC was then in recess, she sent her recommendation for TRO on the SCP case to Sereno in order that she can issue the court order as provided by the rules.

However, instead of limiting the TRO to the SCP case raffled to De Castro, Sereno allegedly issued a court directive that stopped the Comelec from proclaming as winners all other partylist groups not involved in the SCP issue.

Also testifying before the panel was Court Administrator Midas Marquez.

De Castro revealed that filing a complaint before the ethics body would have been the proper venue to pursue a complaint against Sereno or any other member of the High Court for questionable actions.

However, De Castro said she had no intention to “put down the Chief” that she decided against bringing questions about the Sereno’s dubious creation of the Judicial Decentralized Office.

“If I wanted to put down the Chief, I would have filed a case against her or asked the other justices to amend the AO (adminsitrative order) and stop the JDO from being implemented,” explained De Castro.

She also revealed that the Regional Court Administration Office 7 in Cebu City was reopened by Sereno without the en banc’s consent in 2012.

De Castro questioned Sereno’s supposed unilateral issuance of Administrative Order No. 175-2012 which revived the RCAO 7.

“The Chief Justice cannot create an office. It is a legislative power. What she did, it appears she created a permanent office. Even it was created by the court, it was a pilot project, it is an ad-hoc body. It has no permanency,” De Castro said. (Ben R. Rosario)