SC ops normal despite Sereno on indefinite leave: Carpio

MANILA Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio on Monday said the Supreme Court is normally functioning despite the indefinite leave of Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno.

With this, Carpio explained why he and his 12 colleagues came up with a consensus on an en banc session last February 27 urging the Chief Justice to take an indefinite leave.

"There was discussion on how best to preserve the integrity of the Supreme Court, how to insulate the Supreme Court from the trial, from all these political moves. At the end of the day, there was an agreement that she will go on leave, with her consent and agreement," he bared in a television interview.

Carpio further explained that a clarification had to be made on the status of Sereno because her lawyers claimed that she only took a wellness leave.

"A wellness leave, it's specific, it's for two weeks, it would not be considered... the public will not look at it as something that's specifically to address the issue of the ramifications of the impeachment because the public was saying it's affecting our work already. So we wanted to show to the public that the Supreme Court is functioning normally, and there will be no problem with the impeachment because the Chief Justice is going on leave," he explained.

As acting chief justice, Carpio vowed to expedite resolution of pending cases before the high tribunal.

"Based on my study, 15 justices can decide full-length on 1,000 cases a year," revealed the senior magistrate who has no backlogs.

The SC is set to tackle the quo warranto case filed by the office of the Solicitor General in session on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, hours before the filing of the quo warranto petition, SC employees showed their support to the justices who compelled Sereno to take an indefinite leave of office last week by wearing red shirts during their flag-raising ceremony on Monday.

Ten of the 13 justices who urged Sereno to take an indefinite leave attended the Monday flag ceremony, with some of them wearing red.

Present during the flag ceremony were Associate Justices Teresita Leonardo De Castro, Diosdado Peralta, Lucas Bersamin, Mariano Del Castillo, Marvic Leonen, Francis Jardeleza, Andres Reyes Jr., Noel Tijam, Samuel Martires and Alexander Gesmundo were applauded by SC officials and employees when they emerged from the court.

Also present were, Philippine Judicial Academy (PhilJa) Chancellor and retired Supreme Court Associate Justice Adolf Azcuna, Court Administrator Jose Midas Marquez and several judges led by Philippine Judges Association President Felix Reyes.

Some of the magistrates wore red ties, while Justice de Castro was in a red dress. Several officials and employees were also in red clothes.

The employees said they chose red to symbolize "love and support" for the 13 justices.

Mere political noise

Sereno, meanwhile, remains unfazed by what she called a political noise obviously organized by her detractors in the high court to make it appear that justices who compelled her to go on indefinite leave have the support of the employees.

The top magistrate, however, is worried on the long-term impact of such high-handed maneuvering and operation on the credibility and independence of the SC as an institution, according to lawyer Jojo Lacanilao, one of Sereno's spokespersons.

The Chief Justice is completely unaffected by such kind of political noise within the Supreme Court, said Lacanilao, referring to court employees attending the regular flag-raising ceremony in red outfits supposedly in support of Sereno's colleagues.

Lacanilao said this was precisely the reason why Sereno had made it clear from the start that she would not ask for a display of support from court officials and employees, as such would only destroy the judiciary in the long term.

She knows that, ultimately, such political maneuverings can only erode the judiciary in the long term however gratifying it may be at the moment. She has no interest in feeding her ego, Lacanilao said.

During her recent tell-all interview in The Bottomline with Boy Abunda, Sereno said she discouraged court employees from staging protests and wearing black shirts and armbands, just like what happened during the impeachment trial of the late Chief Justice Renato Corona.

What you saw were rallies of employees going out of their offices wearing armbands. It was not a measure of anything. It was just that. It was an organized effort of support, that's all it was, Sereno pointed out.

She said that her barometer of being able to do her job well was not for people to go out en masse to support her.

Perhaps it will be a bonus; perhaps it will be a bane. You know why it will be a bane? Perhaps people will think politics is the be all and end all of things. The important thing is that my conscience is correct, Sereno said.

Source: Philippine News Agency