MANILA - (2ND UPDATE) The Supreme Court has unanimously voted to allow magistrates and employees to participate in the impeachment hearings against Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, the high court's spokesman said on Tuesday.
"Those who are invited to testify on administrative matters may do so if they wish. The court is not requiring them but is granting them clearance if they so wish to appear and testify on administrative matters," Supreme Court spokesperson Theodore Te said.
The House justice committee invited SC magistrates and several employees to the hearings to answer allegations that Sereno bypassed her colleagues and falsified several court orders, including a temporary restraining order drafted by Associate Justice Teresita Leonardo-De Castro in 2013.
Te explained that Leonardo-De Castro has been authorized to testify on 3 matters only: the issuance of the TRO in the seniors' citizens cases and exchange of communication with Sereno; the merits of the decision on the clustering case involving the Judicial and Bar Council; and the merits of her separate concurring opinion in the case involving then Solicitor General and now Associate Justice Francis Jardaleza.
De Castro, Associate Justice Noel Tijam, and retired justice Arturo Brion have said they will attend the impeachment hearings once they get clearance from the SC en banc, justice panel chairperson Reynaldo Umali told DZMM.
Lawyer Jojo Lacanilao, a spokesperson for Sereno, said the chief justice is confident that she has done nothing wrong.
"We're confident about the position of the Chief Justice that she has not done anything wrong," Lacanilao told ANC on Tuesday.
"Our attitude if all this comes out under a fair hearing, Chief Justice Sereno will be found saying the truth. We have no problems, worries, about people coming with documents because we have seen everything and there's nothing there that will prove the case against CJ Sereno..." he added.
The SC's move to allow its magistrates to participate in Sereno's impeachment trial is a good decision, according to lawyer Tony La Viña, former dean of the Ateneo School of Government.
"That’s a good decision because they need to cooperate. It is important to have transparency. The important thing here is that they will also provide guidance, I think Justice Carpio has been asked to write the guidance particularly for internal documents. That’s very important how they will deal with documents that they considered confidential, only for their eyes," he said.
La Viña meanwhile said he is "mystified" by the House hearings because he sees no impeachable offense.
"You know, I'm actually mystified by the hearing because the allegations, I'm not hearing how they could be impeachable. There is no allegation of corruption here, there is no allegation of deliberate intent. At most, allegations are lapses in judgment," he said.
"What should we look out for? We do not embarrass, we do not belittle, we do not demean a person in an office just because of politics. So, this hearing should be in an utmost dignity," he added.
Sereno is accused of misdeclaring her wealth and having an extravagant lifestyle.
Congressmen are determining if there is probable cause to pursue the impeachment case against the Chief Justice.
Sereno, who has denied any wrongdoing, refused to attend the hearings.