Sereno impeachment case: De Castro bares dubious creation of Cebu admin office
Supreme Court (SC) Associate Justice Teresita de Castro recalled during the House justice committee hearing how she was “aghast” at the decision of Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno to reopen a Regional Court Administration Office (RCAO) without the en banc’s consent in 2012.
At the resumption of the hearing on Sereno’s impeachment case on Wednesday, De Castro, showing to the lawmakers a power point presentation containing court documents, narrated the order of the chief magistrate which drew the ire of the SC justices.
De Castro said she was “taken aback” when she received the invitation from the Chief Justice’s office to the reopening ceremony of the RCAO in Central Visayas (RCAO-7) held in Radisson Blu hotel in Cebu City last November 29, 2012.
“I was taken aback because we were invited only to a launching of RCAO in region 7 and we were not at all consulted and made to participate in the opening of this office. This prompted me to look deeply into this,” De Castro told the panel.
On November 27, 2012, Sereno issued Administrative Order No. 175-2012, creating the Judiciary Decentralization Office (JDO) and reopening the post of RCAO-7 Associate Justice without getting the approval of the SC en banc.
De Castro maintained that Sereno cannot make permanent the RCAO-7 as it was a “pilot project and an ad hoc body.”
“I was so much aghast in what she’s done when she issued the administrative order,” she said.
“If it is to be reopened, she can’t do it herself unless there’s delegation of power from en banc,” she added.
She then moved that the issue be taken up during the en banc deliberation. There, De Castro said many justices agreed with her in disputing Sereno’s order.
One of the justices, whom De Castro refused to name, questioned Sereno’s appointment of Geraldine Faith Econg, the court’s head of the program management office, as head of RCAO-7, as the latter protested the RCAO’s creation before.
“She (Econg) even wore a black band as protest,” De Castro said, quoting the unidentified justice.
“In the course of deliberation, the Chief Justice said ‘Okay, let’s make Geraldine Econg the head of study group’ so as not to embarrass her,” De Castro recalled Sereno as saying.
After the en banc meeting, De Castro said Sereno vowed to make changes in the much contested administration order.
De Castro said she asked for the copy of the amended order from former SC clerk of court Enriqueta Vidal.
“A few days after, I called the clerk and asked a copy of resolution. ‘Pwede ba makahingi ng resolution tungkol sa RCAO na dinecide namin noon Tuesday? Sabi ni Chief Justice babaguhin niya ang AO. I’d like to see how it’s done.’ Sabi ng clerk of court, ‘Sabi niya (Sereno) ho ratified eh,’ so ang binigay niya ‘yung ratified,” De Castro recalled.
Since the en banc deliberation on the RCAO issue, De Castro said Sereno “did not reply at all” to their letters.
The protested RCAO order of Sereno was one of the bases of the impeachment complaint against her for culpable violation of the Constitution, betrayal of public trust, corruption, among others. /kga
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