Umali rejects doctor-patient privilege for Sereno psych tests


Posted at Feb 27 2018 03:50 PM | Updated as of Oct 14 2018 10:40 PM

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MANILA - The head of the House justice committee on Tuesday threatened to cite members of the Judicial and Bar Council in contempt for refusing to divulge the psychological test results of Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno. 

"We do not consider this as being subject of that confidentiality rule or doctor-patient privilege because the Chief Justice when she applied for the position, she is not even a patient," Oriental Mindoro Rep. Reynaldo Umali, House justice committee chair, said. 

Lawyer Maria Milagros Cayosa, who represents the Integrated Bar of the Philippines in the JBC, has said the psychological test results are only for JBC's use to evaluate a candidate for a position. 

"Results of the examination are strictly confidential, referring to the psychological evaluation, and are to be used solely by the council for evaluation purposes only," she said, quoting from JBC rules.

Cayosa added that a letter of request for these records by lawyer Larry Gadon, who filed the impeachment raps against Sereno, remains pending and therefore a "sub judice" matter. 

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Umali, however, said the justice panel, as an impeachment committee, is no party to the case, and therefore is not covered by the sub judice rule. 

House Deputy Speaker Gwen Garcia also said Sereno is subject to the amended JBC rules of 2016, which does not have any confidentiality clause. Sereno was appointed Chief Justice in 2012. 

The camp of Sereno, meanwhile, said the psychological exam of the chief magistrate is not a ground for removal from office, as stated in the Constitution.

In a statement released Tuesday, lawyer Jojo Lacanlinao stressed that the JBC, following the process, litigated and approved Sereno's qualifications. 

"The fact of the matter is the JBC litigated her qualification, President Aquino litigated her qualification, and they said she was qualified and these are the only people who would decide on her qualification," said Sereno's lawyer. 

The House justice committee is tackling an impeachment complained filed by lawyer Lorenzo Gadon, accusing Sereno of of culpable violation of the Constitution, betrayal of public trust, and other high crimes. 

Sereno has asserted that the allegations are baseless.