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CAUGHT IN THE MIDDLE

Lawmaker Ate Vi ‘can’t breathe’ between feuding SC justices

By: - Reporter / @deejayapINQ
/ 02:45 PM March 09, 2018
Maria Lourdes Sereno

Supreme Court Chief Justice on-leave Maria Lourdes Sereno sits beside Representative Vilma Santos-Recto (middle) as Associate Justice Teresita Leonardo-De Castro (left) stands during the 23rd National Convention and Seminar of the Philippine Women Judges Association (PWJA) at the Manila Hotel on Thursday, March 8, 2018, in celebration of International Women’s Day.
INQUIRER PHOTO / GRIG C. MONTEGRANDE

 

She could barely breathe.

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Batangas Rep. Vilma Santos-Recto learned what it was like to be in the middle of a rock and a hard place on Thursday, when she found herself seated between Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno and Associate Justice Teresita Leonardo-De Castro.

The actress-turned-politician was one of the guest speakers during the convention of the Philippine Women Judges Association (PWJA) at the Manila Hotel when the tension-filled moment occurred between the feuding magistrates.

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In her speech, Sereno lashed out at her detractors, and criticized the moves to unseat her. De Castro then got up from her seat and rebuked the Chief Justice for raising a matter that was “sub judice” or still pending before the courts and prohibited from public discussion.

“The tension was palpable. The entire hall felt it,” Santos-Recto recalled in a phone interview with the Inquirer.

“That is why the first thing that came out of my mouth was ‘I can’t breathe’,” she said in Filipino.

Santos-Recto said she was in fact supposed to be the next speaker after Sereno when De Castro, who had testified in the House impeachment hearings against the Chief Justice, abruptly approached the podium to reprove the latter’s remarks.

When the former Batangas governor got to deliver her speech, she said she tried to inject some levity into the atmosphere.

“I said ‘let’s just stay fabulous,’ to make the environment much lighter,” Santos-Recto recalled. “I think the audience appreciated it because they applauded.”

Toward the end of the event, Santos-Recto recalled hugging Sereno and telling her, “You’re facing many trials. I will pray for you.”

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But Santos-Recto said her expression of sympathy did not mean she was taking sides between Sereno and De Castro.

Neither did her words mean she would vote in the Chief Justice’s favor once the House of Representatives began plenary debates on the impeachment complaint against her, Santos-Recto said.

The House justice panel on Thursday found probable cause to impeach Sereno.

READ: House justice panel finds probable cause to impeach Sereno

“Impeachment is no joke. It is my obligation to thoroughly study the committee report, whether this is just personal or administrative or whatever,” Santos-Recto said.

The Batangas congresswoman, along with her husband Senator Ralph Recto, belongs to the Liberal Party though she is allied with the administration-backed supermajority in Congress.           /kga

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TAGS: Associate Justice Teresita Leonardo De Castro, Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, Impeachment, PWJA, Vilma Santos
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