MANILA - Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno can act on urgent cases even without the recommendation of a member-in-charge when the court is in recess, her camp said Wednesday.
Sereno's legal team made this response after her Supreme Court colleague Associate Justice Teresita De Castro testified before a House of Representatives hearing that Sereno changed a draft temporary restraining order she had prepared in the case of the Coalition of Associations of Senior Citizens in the Philippines in the May 2013 elections.
"The Chief Justice could not be accused of falsifying anything. In the exercise of her own discretion and authority to issue TROs when the Court is in recess, the Chief Justice elected to issue a temporary restraining order under terms she considered just and proper," her camp said.
The chief magistrate's legal team issued rebuttals to De Castro's testimony Wednesday through media statements as the House justice committee had denied her bid to be represented by counsel at the panel hearings.
Citing Section 6, Rule 7 of the SC Internal Rules, Sereno's legal team said she is “expressly empowered to act on urgent cases requiring immediate action, including initiatory pleadings praying for the issuance of a temporary restraining order”.
But De Castro, in her testimony, insisted that as the magistrate in charge of the case, she should have been consulted.
"The chief justice only issues the TRO but she has no authority to act on the case on her own. The case was not raffled to her. I am the Member-in-Charge. I should be... consulted," said De Castro.
Sereno's camp, meanwhile, said she gave due consideration to De Castro's "recommendatory action."
"However, since Justice De Castro was merely “recommending” a course of action to the Chief Justice, and further considering that the proposed “temporary restraining order” was merely a “draft”, the Chief Justice can wholly accept, modify or even reject Justice De Castro’s recommendation," Sereno's camp said.
De Castro said the TRO issued by the court was different from her draft as it held in abeyance the proclamation of not only the group involved, but also all the remaining party-list groups that have yet to be proclaimed.
"I was taken aback because I am being attributed to have recommended that because the TRO says upon recommendation of the member-in-charge. I was the member-in-charge," she said.
De Castro said she wrote a letter to Sereno asking her why she altered her recommendation.
"I was explaining that the TRO should only be directed to the Senior Citizen partylist. It is very basic that you cannot include anyone who is not involved in the case...that will violate the right of other partylist [groups] to due process of law and it will also violate the rights of their constituency," she explained.
The SC en banc eventually took up the matter on June 5, 2013 and issued a status quo ante order against an earlier Commission on Elections resolution disqualifying the party-list group.