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WARNING TO CRITICS

De Castro tells Palace, Congress: Leave SC alone

/ 07:28 AM September 04, 2018

FLAG CEREMONY Chief Justice Teresita Leonardo-De Castro is joined by fellow justices and employees of the Supreme Court during Monday’s flag ceremony. —MARIANNE BERMUDEZ

Chief Justice Teresita Leonardo-De Castro on Monday called on Malacañang and Congress to “respect” the Supreme Court, warning them against interfering in the tribunal’s affairs.

Speaking at her first flag ceremony at the Supreme Court since assuming office last week, De Castro also told critics who were unhappy with her appointment after the controversial ouster of her predecessor, Maria Lourdes Sereno, to leave the court alone.

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Sereno was ousted in June after the high court upheld the quo warranto case filed against her by Solicitor General Jose Calida on the grounds that she lacked integrity for not filing statements of assets, liabilities and net worth before her appointment as Chief Justice in 2012.

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“The other members of the coequal and independent branches of the government should understand that based on our constitutional order, the decisions reached by the justices of the Supreme Court whether unanimously or by majority vote must be respected,” De Castro told her fellow justices and the court staff.

She will serve as Chief Justice for only 41 days as she will reach the mandatory retirement age of 70 on Oct. 8.

“We should be left alone to decide the fate of this institution without interference,” she went on, adding that justices of the Supreme Court weigh the law and evidence carefully.

“So we demand respect from the other members of the co-equal and independent branches of the government,” she said.

De Castro said the high court had learned lessons from its “turbulent months,” alluding to Sereno’s impeachment hearings in the House of Representatives and her ouster.

De Castro was the first of the five Supreme Court justices who testified against Sereno before the House committee on justice hearings on the impeachment complaint against her.

“I would like to say that people outside would like to judge us from what they see from afar. But it is us the justices and the employees and officials of the court who know what is happening inside the Supreme Court,” she declared, to applause from court personnel.

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“And we should be left alone to decide for ourselves,” she added, to louder cheers and applause.

De Castro has denied that President Duterte appointed her as a reward for Sereno’s ouster.

She is the second most senior member of the court next to Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, but the most senior among the three justices endorsed by the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) to Mr. Duterte. Carpio declined the nomination to the JBC.

Sereno was the most junior member of the court when then President Benigno S. Aquino III appointed her Chief Justice in 2012.

In an apparent dig at her predecessor who had been accused by other justices of acting unilaterally, De Castro said she would restore collegiality in the court.

“No one can claim superiority over the others and we decide cases… with one vote each,” she said.

Court employees and some justices, including De Castro, turned out in blue for the flag ceremony. According to the employees’ union, the color symbolized the “return of peace” in the judiciary. —WITH A REPORT FROM TETCH TORRES-TUPAS

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