Controversy surrounds appointment of Sereno staff

by Ina Reformina, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Feb 11 2013 07:07 PM | Updated as of Feb 12 2013 03:07 AM

MANILA - Atty. Solomon Lumba clarified that he has "already taken steps" to resign from the University of the Philippines (UP) College of Law as a member of its faculty following reports Supreme Court (SC) Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio has questioned his appointment as a member of the staff of Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno.

In a 2-page letter dated Jan. 31 addressed to Sereno, Carpio pointed out that Lumba's appointment to her office ran counter with the constitutional provision that appointive government officials shall not hold another public post unless provided for by law.

"As I have no wish to intentionally violate a mandatory provision of the Constitution that I am sworn to uphold, I have no choice but to now withdraw my signature in the appointment of Atty. Lumba as Chief Justice Staff Head 2. This constitutional requirement is reiterated in Section 54(3) , Book V of the Administrative Code of 1987. I do not believe that Atty. Lumba's appointment as Chief Justice Staff Head 2 complies with this constitutional requirement," Carpio said.

In a one-page statement, Lumba said that he has not had any teaching load from UP nor has he been doubly compensated since his formal appointment to the SC last Nov. 5.

"I have already taken steps to forego my tenure and sever my relationship with the University of the Philippines in order to avoid a protracted discussion on this matter and so that everyone can focus on the urgent and pressing issues of judicial reform and the dispensation of justice," Lumba said.

In his statement, Lumba refused to address the issue of the constitutionality of his appointment.

Carpio had signed Lumba's appointment papers as Second Division chairman but decided to withdraw his consent following the discovery of Lumba's alleged dual positions.

"When the appointment paper was submitted for my signature, there was no indication whatsoever that Atty. Lumba was to be seconded from the UP College of Law. Thus, I assumed that Atty. Lumba was not holding any other public office. Subsequently, however, I learned that Atty. Lumba had a prior and still subsisting permanent appointment to the UP Law Faculty. In fact, tty. Lumba's appointment as Chief Justice Staff Head 2 was to be a secondment from the UP College of Law," Carpio said.

Carpio also pointed out to Sereno that contrary to her claims, the UP College of Law Charter does not allow secondment of his faculty members to the SC or any government office.

"During the En Banc meeting last 29 January 2013, the validity of Atty. Lumba's appointment was raised and you (Sereno) stated that the Charter of the University of the Philippines, as well as the Human Resource Manual of the Supreme Court, allowed secondments.

"I read and re-read the University of the Philippines Charter of 2008, as well as the University of the Philippines Charter of 1908, as amended, and could not find any provision allowing secondment of UP Law Faculty members to the Supreme Court or any other government office. I also read and re-read our Human Resource Manual, and could not find a definition of secondment (apparently lifted from Civi Service Rules), but nothing else. I also checked other laws, and could only find statutory authority for the secondment of Science & Technology government to the private sector," Carpio said.

This is not the first time for a senior justice of the high court to call Sereno's attention to "illegal" actions she has taken.

Last December, Associate Justice Teresita Leonardo-De Castro also wrote Sereno to bring her attention to her controversial resolution on the reopening of the Regional Court Administration Office (RCAO).

De Castro pointed out that the subject resolution not only failed to reflect the actual deliberations of the court en banc, it also does not reflect the objections raised by the other magistrates on the project.

“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," De Castro said.

Among other points, De Castro told Sereno that an order solely from 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."

Another appointment, that of another UP College of Law faculty member, Atty. Theodore Te, remains pending. Te's appointment as incoming SC spokesman was already announced but he has yet to formally be appointed.