MANILA - Unlike three of his colleagues at the Supreme Court (SC) who testified at the House Justice Committee hearings on the impeachment complaint against Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio has informed the committee that he is declining the invitation.
In a two-page letter dated January 10 addressed to committee chairman Representative Reynaldo Umali, Carpio said he has no personal knowledge on the issues he was invited to shed light on.
Carpio was asked to testify on Sereno’s alleged falsification of the temporary restraining order (TRO) in the case of Senior Citizen’s party-list, transfer of trial of the cases involving Maute group members and sympathizers, Sereno’s alleged misrepresentation of the En Banc in doing away with the voting for recommendees to vacant SC posts, alleged illegal hiring of an information technology (IT) consultant, and “[a]ll other allegations involving administrative matters and internal rules and procedures of the [SC].”
On the transfer of trial of Maute cases where complainant Atty. Lorenzo Gadon accused Sereno of delaying the resolution and taking over the petition minus a raffle, Carpio said, “I wish to state that I was on Wellness Leave on 19 June 2017, the day the Maute cases were raffled.”
“I was out of the country from 19 June 2017 to 3 July 2017,” he added.
While he also has no personal knowledge on the matter of the SC justices’ vote on recommendations to replace retiring members of the high court, where Sereno allegedly “[l]ied and made it appear that several justices requested that they do away with the voting for the recommendees to the [SC],” Carpio said he agreed with the change.
Sereno allegedly caused the removal in the JBC’s rules of the mandatory SC justices’ voting, without consulting the other justices. The results of such voting used to be the applicants voted by the chief magistrate at the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC). By removing the rule, Sereno voted for her own personal choice or preferred applicants.
“I wish to state that for years now my position has been that the court do away with the voting since the Judicial and Bar Council is an independent constitutional body and in any event it has not been following the recommendations of the court for several years in the past,” Carpio explained.
On the hiring of an IT consultant minus the required approval of the court en banc, Carpio said, “I came to know of such hiring only after the consultancy contract was questioned, long after it had been implemented and renewed.”
“Besides, as of 10 January 2018, this matter is still under deliberation by the En Banc,” he added.
Under the Internal Rules of the Supreme Court, strict confidentiality is observed in pending cases or cases that have yet to be resolved.
Carpio is not closing his doors to testifying on all other allegations against Sereno involving administrative matters and the internal rules and procedures of the high court, but he stressed that he will not be able to comment or testify “unless the allegations are made specific.”
Earlier, Associate Justices Teresita Leonardo-De Castro, Francis Jardeleza, and Noel Tijam testified at the House impeachment hearings. Their testimonies have been damning to Sereno, as claimed by members of the committee and Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez.
Associate Justices Diosdado Peralta, Lucas Bersamin, and Samuel Martires are expected to testify in the hearings when Congress resumes sessions on January 15.
Gadon’s complaint accuses Sereno of culpable violation of the Constitution, betrayal of public trust, and other high crimes.