Sereno: Indefinite leave doesn’t mean resignation

MANILA Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno on Thursday said that while she agreed to go on indefinite leave, it does not mean that she is quitting her post.

I have not resigned and I will not resign. This indefinite leave is not a resignation. I will devote my time to the preparation of my Senate defense and work on the cases in my docket, the Chief Justice said in a statement read by lawyer Jojo Lacanilao, one of her spokespersons, in a press conference in Quezon City.

Sereno issued the statement after the 13 Associate Justices of the Supreme Court (SC) issued a statement to clear the confusion created by the Chief Justice's spokespersons, who earlier said the latter is only taking a wellness leave and not an indefinite leave.

It is unfortunate that my plan of making use of an already approved wellness leave in relation to an indefinite leave was inaccurately conveyed for which I apologized, the statement further reads.

The top magistrate clarified that her indefinite leave is bound by the appropriate administrative rules of the court.

I had to qualify my leave according to the provisions of Rule 7, Section 6(c) of the Internal Rules of the Supreme Court '(c) Members who are on wellness leave or who are on vacation or sick leave, for at least 15 continuous calendar days shall be exempt from raffle. xxx' and the Resolution dated January 23, 2018 (A.M. No. 07-11-02-SC) on the matter of my approved wellness leave, she said.

Sereno had initially scheduled her annual wellness leave, as approved by the en banc, from March 12 to 23, but opted to advance it to March 1 to 15 to give her sufficient time to prepare for her legal defense in the looming impeachment trial.

In the same press conference, Lacanilao apologized on behalf of the Chief Justice's spokespersons to the SC and the House Committee on Justice for the confusion created by his previous announcement.

We were working on information available to us at the time we were engaged and asked questions by the press. The developments and discussions on what transpired during the en banc on Tuesday were not privy to us, Lacanilao explained.

Therefore, there was no malice on anyone of us to confuse, mislead or obfuscate what were fast developing events in the Supreme Court, he added.

Sereno said she would use her leave of absence to prepare her legal defense in her impeachment case, which is expected to reach the Senate anytime soon.

Sereno is facing impeachment trial for alleged culpable violation of the Constitution, corruption, other high crimes and betrayal of public trust.

The complaint was filed by lawyer Larry Gadon who claimed that Sereno did not declare in her Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth (SALN) the exorbitant lawyer's fees of USD745,000 or PHP37 million which she received from the Philippine government.

The impeachment complainant said the issue of SALN declaration is the strongest case presented against Sereno.

The complaint also alleged that Sereno committed corruption when she, among other things, used public funds to finance her extravagant and lavish lifestyle by ordering the purchase of a brand-new luxurious Toyota Land Cruiser 2017 model as her personal vehicle, amounting to more than PHP5 million; and stay in opulent hotels when attending conferences in the country and abroad.

Source: Philippine News Agency