Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno has been asked by an associate justice to recall or amend her controversial administrative order that created a Judiciary Decentralized Office and allowed the reopening of a Regional Court Administration Office (RCAO) in Cebu City.
Associate Justice Teresita Leonardo-de Castro said the AO had been objected to by the justices of the Supreme Court and this fact was not reflected in Sereno’s order.
Among other things, De Castro implied, Sereno’s order usurped the justices’ duty to administer all the courts and their personnel, and also undermined the Office of the Court Administrator (OCA) whose job it is to assist the high tribunal in its administration.
The court administrator is Midas Marquez who, court insiders say, is not Sereno’s favorite person after he openly criticized her when she was an associate justice and had issued a dissenting opinion to the high court decision allowing former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to leave for abroad for medical treatment.
One court insider told the Philippine Daily Inquirer it was believed that Sereno’s order, which would curtail the OCA’s power at least in Region VII, was meant to stifle Marquez.
Sereno had designated Program Management Office head Geraldine Faith Econg as officer in charge of RCAO-7.
Sereno returned to work Thursday after a two-day absence due to the flu. But she was expected to leave early Thursday “to avoid a relapse,” SC public information chief Gleo Guerra said, quoting Sereno’s chief of staff Honey Oliveros.
Sereno skipped Tuesday’s en banc session where the justices reportedly had intended to confront her about the AO.
Sereno is set to leave for Melaka, Malaysia, Friday to lead the Philippine delegation to the 2nd Roundtable for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Chief Justices on Environmental Law and Enforcement until Dec. 10, according to the SC public information office.
This means Sereno will be home in time for the high court’s last en banc session for the year on Dec. 11. The tribunal will go on a Christmas break from Dec. 12 to Jan. 9.
In a Dec. 3 three-page memorandum to Sereno and the other associate justices that De Castro said she “regret(ted)” to write, she asserted that the Chief Justice’s issuance of Administrative Order No. 175-2012 “designating the head of the JDO in the seventh judicial region” on Nov. 27 that was “supposedly adopted” by the court en banc “did not reflect the court’s deliberation and the consensus of the justices opposing the reopening of RCAO-7” when it was tackled that day.
De Castro quoted Sereno as saying: “I will amend my administrative order,” after she heard about the “vehement objections of the justices.”
She stressed that the high court en banc did not reach a decision on the issue and “accepted the undertaking of the Chief Justice to amend” the AO “to address the foregoing adverse observations of the justices.” Christine O. Avendaño