Solon’s slipup draws uneasy chuckles at Sereno impeachment hearing
Chief Justice Teresita de Castro? No, someone might get mad.
A lawmaker mistakenly addressed Supreme Court (SC) Associate Justice Teresita de Castro as the “Chief Justice” during a House committee’s hearing on the impeachment complaint against the sitting top magistrate Maria Lourdes Sereno.
“Thank you very much for that, Chief Justice. Madam Justice, I’m sorry,” Quezon City Rep. Kit Belmonte said during his interpellation with De Castro, drawing awkward laughter from the members of the House committee on justice, participants, and spectators.
De Castro was then heard saying: “Nako, baka magalit si…”
To which Belmonte quickly replied: “I beg your pardon po.”
The opposition lawmaker was quizzing De Castro whether she thinks the creation of the Regional Court Administration Office (RCAO) in Cebu was illegal or in violation of the Constitution.
De Castro said, “No.”
“For our enlightenment, the creation of RCAO-7 under the original en banc resolution, administrative order 175-2012, and as subsequently modified by further actions, were they in any way violative of the Constitution or the separation of powers or anything illegal in their creation? The creation of RCAO?” Belmonte asked.
“If I may give my offhand opinion, the RCAO is a not a permanent office, it’s a pilot body and I think ad hoc bodies can be created administratively,” De Castro answered.
Belmonte then clarified, “In other words, there’s nothing violative of the Constitution or violative of separation of powers of co-equal bodies?”
“Yes, your honor, if it is under the office of the court administrator (OCA) because the law of OCA, or the charter of OCA vests upon Supreme Court,” the Justice said.
De Castro was testifying against Sereno, who was accused of making decisions without the en banc’s consent in connection with the reopening of the RCAO in Region 7 in 2012.
De Castro hit Sereno for “creating a confusion” because of her “attempt to give a legal basis for what she has done” on reopening the RCAO-7.
“She keeps referring on RCAO (in the administrative order), when actually what she intends to do is to establish a new office, which is not under the office of the court administrator,” De Castro said.
“From the start, I’m opposed to the fact that she’s reviving it this time and reviving it using another vehicle, which is the Judiciary Decentralized Office (JDO),” De Castro added.
The protested RCAO order of Sereno was one of the bases in the impeachment complaint filed against her for culpable violation of the Constitution, betrayal of public trust, and corruption, among others. /kga
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