Justice De Castro nixes CJ Sereno resolution

By Ina Reformina, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Dec 05 2012 06:28 PM | Updated as of Dec 06 2012 02:59 AM

Says it doesn't reflect en banc deliberations, objections

MANILA - The controversial Nov. 27 resolution ordered issued by Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno on the reopening of the Regional Court Administration Office (RCAO) not only does not reflect the actual deliberations of the court en banc, it also does not reflect the objections raised by the other magistrates.

This was pointed out by Associate Justice Teresita Leonardo-De Castro, 4th most senior justice of the high tribunal, in a 3-page memorandum dated Dec. 3, 2012 addressed to Sereno.

The subject resolution states that the court en banc "resolved to ratify the action of Chief Justice Maria Lourdes P. A. Sereno to revive the Regional Court Administration Office in Region 7, with Phase 1 on;  (a) procurement; (b) approval of leave; and (c) payroll administration..."

The resolution also states that Judge Geraldine Faith A. Econg, Deputy Clerk of Court and Judicial Reform Program Administrator, has been appointed as RCAO-Region 7 Officer-in-charge effective immediately, and for a period of two months.

ABS-CBN News sources, however, revealed that no such ratification or approval was made by the court en banc. In fact, several justices opposed, in the meantime, he reopening of THE office, and what was agreed upon was that the matter should be subjected to a more thorough study.

The sources told ABS-CBN News that the Nov. 27 resolution was "illegal."

“I regret that I have to write this Memorandum in connection with Resolution in A.M. No. 12-11-9-SC supposedly adopted by the Court en banc on Nov. 27, 2012… With due respect to the Chief Justice, to my recollection, the Resolution does not reflect the Court’s deliberation and the consensus of the Justices opposing the reopening of RCAO-7.

“The resolution dated Nov. 27, 2012 ratifying the action of the Chief Justice reviving RCAO… and appointing the PMO head as officer in charge must be recalled or amended to faithfully reflect the deliberation of the Court en banc, particularly the objections raised against said AO,” De Castro's memorandum read.

The RCAO is intended to decentralize the Office of the Court Administrator, currently headed by Atty. Midas Marquez.

De Castro's memorandum enumerated the following objections raised by the high court justices on the reopening of the office:

·         The Chief Justice has no authority to create the Judiciary Decentralized Office which under the Administrative Order shall take full responsibility over the RCAO in Region 7 which was reopened without Court en banc approval on Nov. 27, 2012;

·         The AO of the Chief Justice cannot deprive the high court of its constitutional duty to exercise administrative supervision over all courts and their personnel and the Office of the Court Administrator (OCA) of its statutory duty under Presidential Decree 828 to assist the Supreme Court in the exercise of said power of administrative supervision;

·         An official outside OCA was designated to take charge of RCAO answerable only the Chief Justice without any guideline set by the Court en banc;

·         The RCAO cannot be reopened without a pilot study. The court took note that when it was launched in 2008, it resulted to protest among judges and court personnel;

·         There has to be a study showing the scope of powers of the OCA which will be transferred to RCAO;

·         The head of the Project Management Office (Judge Geraldine Faith Econg) cannot be in charge of RCAO since it is not part of her duty. At best, the high court justices said she can participate in a study to determine whether to reopen RCAO or not;

·         The high court is constitutionally vested with administrative supervion of all courts and has the authority to decide whether to reopen or not the RCAO;

The controversy was calendared in the court's regular en banc session yesterday but was deferred after Sereno called in sick and failed to preside over the sessions for the first time since her appointment as chief magistrate in August.

Sereno has given assurances that she will attend next Tuesday's en banc session, which is expected to tackle the controversy.