MANILA - (UPDATED) Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno will go on indefinite leave, according to a letter she submitted to the Clerk of Court, which was revealed Wednesday.
In a letter signed by the Chief Justice herself, dated February 27 and received today, Sereno said she will go on an indefinite leave to prepare for the Senate trial on her impeachment.
A portion of this leave, she said, will be charged against her wellness leave originally dated March 12 to 23, but was later modified to March 1 to 15.
Sereno said she will come back to work after she has completed preparation for her eventual trial.
This letter was contrary to earlier claims by the top magistrate's camp that she will go on a "wellness leave" in the month of March.
"It's indefinite in the sense na hindi natin alam 'yung endpoint. Pero hindi po 'yun forever... May mga speculations na tuloy-tuloy na 'yan sa resignation. Hindi po totoo 'yun," Sereno lawyer Jojo Lacanilao emphasized in a press conference Wednesday.
House Justice Committee chair Rey Umali, who was presiding over the impeachment hearing on Sereno, claims several magistrates tipped him off about the "forced leave" of Sereno.
Lacanilao said justices cannot force Sereno to go on an indefinite leave, which their camp believes, is like ousting the Chief Justice. He said only the Senate can dismiss the top magistrate after a trial.
As for Umali's call for Sereno to resign, the lawyer said the Chief Justice will not quit her post because she is willing to fight the case at the Senate.
"Kung matatapos po ang Senate trial at ma-convict siya, hindi siya magtatagal ng isang araw sa posisyon. Pero before that happens, even now she is on wellness-slash-indefinite leave, she remains Chief Justice of the Philippines," he said.
--with a report by Jeff Hernaez, ABS-CBN News