MANILA, Philippines—Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno showed she was still on good terms with Associate Justice Teresita Leonardo-de Castro despite their heated exchanges in the past week.
Sereno bussed De Castro on the cheeks (beso-beso) not once but twice during the launch of the Electronic Court (eCourt) project at the Quezon City (QC) Hall of Justice Friday morning.
De Castro, one of the more senior magistrates in the high court, returned Sereno’s pleasantries and in a talk with reporters, downplayed her recent criticism of the Chief Justice.
The two magistrates recently clashed over a case involving a disqualified senior citizens party-list group. The hight court, meeting en banc, later sided with De Castro and nullified Sereno’s order stopping the Commission of Elections (Comelec) from proclaiming party-list group winners in the last election.
In a letter made public, De Castro contradicted Sereno and accused the Chief Justice of disregarding her recommended ruling as the magistrate in charge of the senior citizens’ case.
However, Sereno made De Castro and all the senior court officials, judges, prosecutors, dignitaries and court personnel wait since she arrived at 9:55 a.m. when the program was supposed to start at 9:30 a.m.
Sereno took her time greeting guests on her way to the makeshift stage in the lobby of the QC Hall of Justice.
When at last she reached the stage, she approached De Castro and gave her fellow magistrate a buss on the cheek.
During the program, Sereno was flanked by De Castro and Associate Justice Marvic Leonen (who arrived with Sereno).
The emcee skipped De Castro’s name in the program but the senior magistrate smilingly brushed off the lapse, saying she was asked to give a “special message” at the request of the Chief Justice.
“This is understandable because I was a last addition to the program,” she said before giving her extemporaneous speech.
Sereno again stood up and bussed De Castro’s cheeks as the latter returned to the table.
Afterwards, when asked by reporters, De Castro said she had no personal issues with Sereno.
“We’re OK. We see each other every session,” said De Castro, smiling.
In reply to a question, De Castro said: “There’s nothing personal. It’s just work.”
Last week, De Castro belied Sereno’s statement that seemed to blame her for the delay in the issuance of a temporary restraining order (TRO) preventing the Comelec from proclaiming party-list winners while the Supreme Court was on recess.
The Chief Justice claimed De Castro, who was in charge of the petition brought up by the Senior Citizens party-ist group, did not submit a draft ruling.
In her letter, De Castro pointed out she sent to Sereno’s office as early as 8:05 a.m. on May 28 “the synopsis for the cases, draft of recommended TRO and the rollos (records) for the consolidated cases.”
Sereno issued the TRO a day later, on May 29.
With the TRO, the Comelec was also ordered “to cease and desist from further proclaiming winners from among the party-list candidates.”