MANILA - Supreme Court justices agreed to have Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno go on leave indefinitely to insulate the court from politics as she faces impeachment proceedings, the acting chief magistrate said Monday.
It was "voluntary" on Sereno's part to go on leave after a consensus of all the justices, including the embattled top judge, Associate Justice Antonio Carpio told ANC's Headstart.
"There was discussion on how best to preserve the integrity of the Supreme Court, how to insulate the Supreme Court from the trial, from all these political moves. At the end of the day, there was an agreement that she will go on leave, with her consent and agreement," Carpio said.
Sereno's lawyers earlier said she would go on a "wellness leave" in preparation for her possible impeachment trial, but Theodore Te, spokesperson for the Supreme Court, said it was the en banc which agreed that she should take an indefinite leave for "several reasons," which were not elaborated at that time.
Carpio said a clarification had to be issued because a wellness leave "would not be considered as something specifically to address the issue of the ramifications of impeachment," and the public might think the proceedings in Congress were affecting their work.
"We wanted to show to the public that the Supreme Court is functioning normally, and there will be no problem with the impeachment because the Chief Justice is going on leave," he said.
Sereno is accused of misdeclaring her wealth and violating court rules, which amount to culpable violation of the Constitution, betrayal of public trust, and other high crimes including under impeachment rules.
The House justice committee, tasked to find probable cause in the complaint filed by lawyer Lorenzo Gadon, is expected to accomplish the articles of impeachment this week before it is transmitted to the Senate, where Sereno will face trial. A vote of 2/3 of the chamber is needed to oust her from her post.