Marquez says Sereno creation of special committees delayed retiree’s benefits
Supreme Court Administrator Jose Midas Marquez, in his testimony before the House justice committee on Tuesday, supported allegations that Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno allowed the delay in the release of retirement and survivorship benefits for justices and judges and their spouses.
Marquez, however, said to the panel that he would refrain from “making any conclusions or opinions” in the course of his narration of events and facts.
Showing a power-point presentation to the committee, Marquez said the special committee that Sereno, Senior Associate Justices Antonio Carpio and Presbitero Velasco created had caused delay in the release of benefits to justices and judges.
Due to the creation of the committees and technical working groups tasked to study policies on the benefits, Marquez said the SC failed to act on applications for two years.
Marquez also said his office was not informed of the creation of the special committee and TWGs. It was only after he received several calls from applicants following up their benefits when he learned of the new committee.
“I didn’t even know that there was a committee until those calls. That’s the only time I made my inquiries. I found out that the (applications) were pending in the committee,” he said.
Most of the applicants were surviving spouses between ages 50 to 90.
One of the applicants was Dolores Colayco, who was the widow of Court of Appeals Associate Justice Jose Colayco. The complaint against Sereno said Dolores, 70, died even before the SC could approve her survivorship benefits application.
Bothered by the delay, Marquez said she wrote Sereno a letter.
“I wrote to the Chief Justice, asking her: ‘can you please once and for all, decide on this issue with finality because our surviving spouses in their advanced ages are waiting,’” he said.
But Sereno’s camp was quick to refute Marquez’s testimony.
“Contrary to Marquez’s claims, the TWGs were not created by CJ alone. The TWGs were created because it was requested by the Special Committee on Retirement and Civil Service Benefits,” the lawyers said in a statement.
Lawyer Josa Deinla, one of Sereno’s spokespersons, said there was no malice in the delay.
“The perceived inordinate delay ay hindi yun sinasadya (is not intentional),” Deinla said.
“Unawain natin na may bagal o may bara, hindi dahil sa malisya o may pinag-iinitan ‘yung mga justices kundi may mga policy decisions na kailangan muna nilang pagdesisyunan bilang Supreme Court en banc at mayroon ding pending administrative cases ‘yung ibang retired justices at judges,” she added.
(We must understand that there were clogging or slowing, not maliciously picking on some, but there are policy decisions that needed to be acted upon first being the Supreme Court en banc and there were administrative cases pending against some retired justices and judges.)
Another lawyer of Sereno, Jojo Lacanilao, said the delay was not enough basis to impeach the chief magistrate as it was an “internal matter only SC could address.” /jpv
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.