MANILA - (UPDATE) Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno on Thursday said she was not going to resign, asserting that she was only taking an break while facing impeachment proceedings.
"I have not resigned and I will not resign. This indefinite leave is not a resignation. I will devote my time to the preparation of my Senate defense and work on the cases in my docket," she said in a statement.
The embattled chief magistrate made the statement after her colleagues at the High Court clarified through spokesperson Theodore Te that the en banc had agreed that Sereno should take an indefinite leave for several reasons.
Sereno said she "had agreed to go on an indefinite leave, but I am also bound by the appropriate administrative rules," which did not stipulate provisions on such leave.
She said she had to qualify her leave according to a Supreme Court resolution and a provision in the high court's internal rules which said: "Members who are on wellness leave or who are on vacation or sick leave, for at least 15 continuous calendar days shall be exempt from raffle."
"I requested yesterday in writing the rescheduling of my wellness leave in view of my restudy of the rules. It is unfortunate that my plan of making use of an already approved wellness leave in relation to an indefinite leave was inaccurately conveyed for which I apologize," she said.
Sereno is facing an impeachment case over her alleged misdeclared wealth and extravagant lifestyle. She has denied the charges and is taking a break to prepare for a possible impeachment trial.
Te said the Chief Justice made the announcement on her indefinite leave after consulting with the 2 most senior associate justices, with the amendment that she starts the leave Thursday.
The confusion over it being an indefinite leave or wellness leave as claimed by Sereno's lawyers, however, seriously damaged the integrity of the judiciary in general and the Supreme Court in particular, he said.