MANILA, Philippines – A Court of Appeals justice confirmed that Supreme Court Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno advised the CA justices to ignore the summons of the House of Representatives on the appellate court in connection with the case of the detained Ilocos Norte officials.
CA Justice Remedios Salazar Fernando appeared on Tuesday, January 23 at the hearing on the impeachment case against Sereno, who is being accused, among others, of committing high crimes when she met with the Presiding Justice and Associate Justices of the Court of Appeals and instructed them to ignore the show-cause order from the House and question it before the Supreme Court.
On June 20, 2017 the House committee on good government issued a show cause order against the Special Fourth Division of the CA in connection with its order to release six Ilocos Norte officials that the panel ordered detained for refusing to cooperate with its investigation.
Fernando said that on June 21, 2017 CA Presiding Justice Andres Reyes called the CA justices to an emergency meeting and told them that he had just come from a meeting with Sereno where they talked about the case of the Ilocos Norte officials.
“According to our Presiding Justice he was given an assurance by the CJ that the SC will protect the CA,” Fernando said.
“According again to our Presiding Justice, in his talk with the Chief Justice, she advised the three (CA) justices to file a petition before the Supreme Court with a TRO at siya na daw ang bahala [and she will take care of the rest]. And everybody was silent about it,” she added.
The three CA justices of the special Fourth Division who handled the habeas corpus case of the Ilocos Norte officials were Associate Justices Stephen Cruz, Edwin Sorongon and Nina Antonio-Valenzuela.
SERENO ACTION ‘IMPROPER’
Fernando said she believes Sereno’s action was irregular.
“For me, personally, because I would not do it,” she said.
Fernando refused to say whether or not Sereno’s action would constitute intervention in the CA.
Fernando said such action constituted “lack of delicadeza, or lack of propriety.”
“Propriety dictates that it should not be the case,” Fernando said when asked if Sereno’s action was proper.
Fernando said the committee could confirm her testimony once former CA Presiding Justice Reyes testifies before the panel.
Continuing her testimony, Fernando said that a day after the June 21 meeting, Reyes again called the CA justices to another emergency meet.
“He again informed us that he came from the Supreme Court and he already signed a joint statement with the Chief Justice regarding that particular case. According to him we will have Mass the next morning and after the Mass he will host a lunch and the Chief Justice will join us for lunch,” Fernando said.
However, Fernando said there was a specific directive from Sereno for the three CA justices handling the case not to join them for lunch.
“According to our Presiding Justice, the Chief Justice instructed our Clerk of Court to tell them not to include the three because there might be a case filed before the Supreme Court and the Chief Justice might be asked to inhibit from the case,” Fernando said.
Fernando said that Sereno indeed joined them for lunch where she informed them that since a joint statement on the issue had already been released, any statement on the matter should emanate from the SC spokesperson Atty. Theodore Te.