MANILA, Philippines — Did Chief Justice Lourdes Sereno commit an impeachable offense when she supposedly issued a blanket temporary restraining order, halting the proclamation of winning party-list groups, as against the TRO draft by Associate Justice Teresita de Castro, the Supreme Court in-charge of the case, who only recommended that a TRO be issued against a senior citizens’ party-list group?
Sereno’s camp on Wednesday presented the chief justice’s side on the issue through a statement issued to media while De Castro was being quizzed by the House Committee on Justice during its hearing on the impeachment complaint filed against the top magistrate by lawyer Lorenzo Gadon.
Here are the two things explained by Sereno in relation to what was raised by De Castro during the House panel hearing:
1. It is within the power of the chief justice to act on cases requiring urgent action even without the advice of the SC member in-charge to write the ruling on the case.
Sereno’s camp explained that the high court was in recess when the application for a TRO in G.R. Nos. 206844-45 (Senior Citizens Party-list vs the Commission on Elections) was filed in 2013.
“Under Section 6, Rule 7 of the SC Internal Rules, the Chief Justice is expressly empowered to ‘act’ on urgent cases requiring immediate action, including initiatory pleadings praying for the issuance of a temporary restraining order,” the camp of the chief justice said.
“Therefore, the Chief Justice could very well have issued a TRO in G.R. Nos. 206844-45, even without the recommendation of the Member-in-Charge,” it added.
2. Nevertheless, Sereno still “gave due consideration” to De Castro’s “recommendatory” action in relation to the Senior Citizens Party-list vs Comelec case
“Justice De Castro had recommended the issuance of a TRO against a Comelec Resolution, albeit limited to the petitioners in G.R. Nos. 206844 to 45,” Sereno’s camp said.
However, the same Comelec resolution actually affected party list candidates other than the Senior Citizens Party-list or those in G.R. Nos. 206844-45, according to the chief justice.
“It also happened that a petition filed by another party-list candidate and docketed as G.R. No. 206952, had questioned the same Comelec resolution.
Sereno said that when G.R. No. 206952 was raffled to Associate Justice Bienvenido L. Reyes, he “also recommended the issuance of a TRO against” the poll body’s resolution.
Sereno’s camp explained that, “Upon the Chief Justice’s evaluation, the Comelec resolution could not be restrained in favor of one group but allowed to continue against others.”
“For this reason, the TRO she issued was not limited to the petitioners in G.R. Nos. 206844-45,” the chief justice’s camp added.