MANILA, Philippines — Justice Samuel Martires is urging the spouses of deceased justices and judges whose applications for survivorship pension have been pending with the Supreme Court for two years to file administrative cases against “any person in the Supreme Court who slept on his job, who was negligent.”
He made these remarks on Monday before the House Committee on Justice, which continued hearing the impeachment complaint against Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno for the first time this year.
Martires said it was time to clean up not just the executive and legislative branches of government, but also the judiciary.
There had been reports of corrupt judges in the past, but witnesses were too afraid to come forward. Nnow was the time, he said, for the heirs of the deceased justices and judges to find out who caused their application for survivorship pension to lag, and to file cases against them.
The Supreme Court would benefit from getting rid of “incompetent and negligent employees,” Martires added.
In his opinion, the two technical working groups that make up the Special Committee on Retirement and Civil Service Benefits, created in an order signed by Sereno, Justice Antonio Carpio, and Justice Presbitero Velasco, were unnecessary. (“Hindi kailangan.”)
Court Administrator Midas Marquez, who first alleged that the Supreme Court had not acted on these 29 applications from spouses aged 79 to 98 years old during the hearing on December 5 last year, explained that these two TWGs were assigned to screen the applications and to handle legal matters respectively.
Due to the TWGs, he alleged, “All applications received by the Office of the Clerk of Court En Banc beginning October 2015 were held in abeyance.”
Meanwhile, lawyer Lorenzo Gadon, the complainant in the impeachment case against Sereno, claimed that Atty. Jocelyn Fabian, the chairperson of the Technical Working Group on the Special Committee on Retirement and Civil Service Benefits, was only able to join the Supreme Court in 2013 because of her connection with Sereno.
Gadon said Fabian was an outsider whose previous experience was working at a department store as an accountant. But she and Sereno met in a religious organization, and this paved the way for Fabian’s entry into the Supreme Court.
Fabian knew nothing about handling survivorship benefits, Gadon claimed.
In a press release, he also said that “the excessive delay in the release of survivorship benefits was clearly the fault of CJ Sereno due to her creation of two technical working groups. The purpose supposed to be was to speed up the processing and approval of the claims for survivorship benefits. It however delayed the process by two years over an issue which already had 271 precedents that were approved.”
He added that the office of the Chief Justice “calendared the claims to be taken up by the SC en banc only after I filed the impeachment case.”
This was in stark contrast to the commentary by Sereno’s lawyers, as e-mailed to the media on the same day.
“The hearing this morning underscores improvements in administrative processes within the Supreme Court. While the discussion is interesting, it is irrelevant to the charges against Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno. It covered actions by the Technical Working Group that evaluates cases and merely recommends decisions to the Supreme Court en banc,” Sereno’s lawyers wrote.
They added, “Throughout the discussion, there was no evidence or indication that the Chief Justice tried to control or influence the TWG work in any way. The fact is she did not need to interfere because all of the TWG’s recommendations would have to be taken up by the Supreme Court en banc.”