SC justice De Castro questions Sereno order reopening RCAOBy Tetch Torres
MANILA, Philippines—The November 27 resolution allowing the reopening of the Regional Court Administration Office (RCAO) issued by Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno does not reflect the objections raised by the high court justices and should be recalled or amended, a senior Associate Justice of the Supreme Court said in a memorandum addressed to Sereno.
“I regret that I have to write this Memorandum in connection with Resolution in A.M. No. 12-11-9-SC supposedly adopted by the Court en banc on Nov. 27, 2012…With due respect to the Chief Justice, to my recollection, the Resolution does not reflect the Court’s deliberation and the consensus of the Justices opposing the reopening of RCAO-7,” Senior Associate Justice Teresita Leonardo de Castro said.
In her three-page memorandum dated Dec. 3, 2012, De Castro took note of the objections raised by the high court justices, which include:
The Chief Justice has no authority to create the Judiciary Decentralized Office which, under the Administrative Order, shall take full responsibility over the RCAO in Region 7, which was reopened without court en banc approval on Nov. 27, 2012;
The AO of the Chief Justice cannot deprive the high court of its constitutional duty to exercise administrative supervision over all courts and their personnel and the Office of the Court Administrator (OCA) of its statutory duty under Presidential Decree 828 to assist the Supreme Court in the exercise of said power of administrative supervision;
An official outside OCA was designated to take charge of RCAO answerable only the Chief Justice without any guideline set by the Court en banc;
The RCAO cannot be reopened without a pilot study. The court took note that when it was launched in 2008, it resulted in protest among judges and court personnel;
There has to be a study showing the scope of powers of the OCA, which will be transferred to RCAO;
The head of the Project Management Office (Judge Geraldine Faith Econg) cannot be in charge of RCAO since it is not part of her duty. At best, the high court justices said she can participate in a study to determine whether to reopen RCAO or not;
The high court is constitutionally vested with administrative supervision of all courts and has the authority to decide whether to reopen RCAO or not;
“The resolution dated Nov. 27, 2012, ratifying the action of the Chief Justice reviving RCAO…and appointing the PMO head as officer-in-charge must be recalled or amended to faithfully reflect the deliberation of the Court en banc, particularly the objections raised against said AO,” De Castro said.
The high court was supposed to discuss the Nov. 27 resolution on Dec. 4 during its full court deliberation but Sereno called in sick and designated Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio as acting chief justice to act on her stead until she got back to work.
Sereno, in a separate letter to the high court, through her Judicial Staff head lawyer Ma. Teresa B. Sibulo assured that she will attend next week’s deliberation to discuss the Nov. 27 resolution before she flies to the US Tuesday evening.
Through Administrative Order No. 16-2008, RCAO was formally organized in 2008 by designating the key officials to run the pilot RCAO in the 7th Judicial Region (Bohol, Cebu, and Negros Oriental).
The RCAO project aims to decentralize the functions of the Office of the Court Administrator to facilitate judicial operations in major regions of the country. The pilot testing failed and the plan was eventually shelved.
Dec. 11 will be the last full court session of the Supreme Court.