Associate Justice Teresita Leonardo-de Castro says she should have been consulted in the issuance of the 2013 TRO involving party lists
MANILA, Philippines – Associate Justice Teresita Leonardo-de Castro on Wednesday, November 29, said Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno’s actions in issuing a temporary restraining order (TRO) on party-list proclamations during the 2013 elections were “grossly unprocedural.”
De Castro was speaking during the House justice committee’s hearing to determine probable cause in an impeachment complaint against Sereno.
Larry Gadon, the complainant, claims Sereno “tampered with and altered” the contents of the TRO sent by De Castro, who was the member-in-charge of the case. (READ: How Sereno answered her impeachment complaint)
“The case was not raffled to her. I am the member-in-charge so I should be the one consulted,” said De Castro, upon questioning by Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas.
Her “unprecedented” appearance before the committee, thus far, has revealed the processes behind Supreme Court decisions – as De Castro promised. It has also inadvertently revealed divisions in the Supreme Court under Sereno.
De Castro was the member-in-charge for the petition filed by the disqualified Coalition of Association of Senior Citizens party-list.
De Castro had wanted the TRO to cover only the Senior Citizens party-list but Sereno eventually issued a “blanket” TRO, which meant that all winning party lists could not be proclaimed.
The eventual TRO, and Sereno’s apparent failure to consult De Castro was “grossly unprocedural,” said the associate justice.
Exercise of discretion
In her verified answer to Gadon’s complaint, Sereno said: “Since Justice De Castro was merely ‘recommending’ a course of action to the Chief Justice, and further considering that the proposed ‘temporary restraining order’ was merely a ‘draft,’ the Chief Justice can wholly accept, modify or even reject Justice De Castro’s recommendation. The Chief Justice could not be accused of falsifying anything. In the exercise of her own discretion and authority to issue TROs when the Court is in recess, the Chief Justice elected to issue a temporary restraining order under terms she considered just and proper.”
De Castro rejected this argument. “I disagree because I am the member-in-charge and as I mentioned, under our rules, the member-in-charge oversees the progress in these cases. The Chief Justice only issues the TRO but she has no authority to act on the case on her own,” she said.
The associate justice added that even if the SC was in recess, Sereno still should have consulted her.
De Castro also seemed miffed, in particular because in the TRO, Sereno made a reference to a recommendation she made. “If she has her own idea or own assessment as to the scope of the TRO, she should have at least consulted the member-in-charge. In that case, she should have consulted me before issuing the TRO because the member-in-charge is the one who studied the case,” she added.
Asked by Siquijor Representative Ramon Rocamora if Sereno’s only fault was not consulting her, De Castro replied: “My objection is not just that in the fact that she did not consult me. If only she consulted me, I would have explained to her that she cannot include other parties.”
“The thing is, she wrote in the TRO that it was upon my written recommendation. So why did she put there that the TRO she issued was upon my recommendation? That is not true. What I’m saying is that if she wanted to change, then she should have issued it on her own authority without reference to the member-in-charge,” she added.
The hearing is still ongoing as of posting.
Thus far, De Castro is the only associate justice who has stood as resource person in the impeachment case. The committee has also invited Associate Justice Noel Tijam, retired justice Arturo Brion, and other Supreme Court employees. – Rappler.com
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