After De Castro's testimony, Sereno must give 'clarificatory answers' – solon

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, November 30) — A lawmaker said it might be better for Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno to appear before the House Justice panel and give "clarificatory answers" on the accusations thrown against her by a colleague in the Supreme Court.

"Probably, it would affect the individual votes of the members kung mapaliwanagan niya (if she explains her side), baka (maybe) this will not be brought to the Senate," House Justice panel vice chair Henry Oaminal told CNN Philippines' The Source on Thursday.

Oaminal, however, clarified Sereno has a choice on whether or not she would appear before the House Justice panel, which also serves as an impeachment body.

READ: Sereno to skip impeachment proceedings against her

Oriental Mindoro 1st District Representative Doy Leachon, also a vice chair of the House Justice panel, said Sereno's lawyers should attend the hearings.

"Ang problema nga nagwalk out pa yung lawyers (The problem is, the Chief Justice's lawyers walked out). They should be there, at least they have congressman there. They can relay the questions through them," Leachon said. "The Chief Justice must speak," he added.

Associate Justice Teresita De Castro attended the hearing on Wednesday, and accused the Chief Justice of violating procedure and making unilateral decisions.

So far, Sereno has skipped all impeachment proceedings in the House Justice panel. She authorized her lawyers to represent her and cross-examine witnesses, but the committee refused to allow this on November 22 – the first hearing for the determination of probable cause in the impeachment complaint.

READ: House panel prohibits Chief Justice's lawyers from participating in impeachment proceeding

Shedding light on accusations

Oaminal said De Castro's testimony has shed light on the allegations indicated by complainant Larry Gadon.

"As it is going on, it appears that out of the 27 allegations, which originally in my personal evaluation, ang most serious allegation do'n is only the SALN (Statement of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth)," Oaminal said.

"With the appearance of Justice De Castro, itong RCAO (Regional Court Administration Office) sa akin, medyo nagkakaroon na rin ng ano, ng vitality, including the alleged falsification of the TRO (temporary restraining order)," he added.

[Translation: In my personal evaluation, the most serious among the 27 allegations was regarding the SALN. With the appearance of Justice De Castro, the issue on the RCAO and the alleged falsification of the TRO are also gaining vitality.]

De Castro, during yesterday's hearing, said Sereno issued orders without the approval of the Supreme Court en banc.

"Justice De Castro, having personal knowledge of that incident in the Supreme Court, that only shows there was really that division, that the alleged falsification of November 22 resolution of the Supreme Court has some sort of that truth," Oaminal said.

De Castro said the resolution issued by Sereno in November 2012 created a permanent office, called the Judiciary Decentralized Office (JDO), replacing the defunct RCAO.

The associate justice said Sereno cannot create a permanent office, as the power belongs to the legislative.

"Per allegation of the associate justice, there was substantial and procedural deviation from the previous resolution," Leachon said.

But Sereno's camp dismissed this, saying the Chief Justice only implemented earlier court resolutions, and the JDO and RCAO are "one and the same."

Sereno's administrative order was one of the acts cited by complainant Lorenzo Gadon as "culpable violation of the Constitution," a ground for impeachment under the 1987 Constitution.

READ: Chief Justice denies issuing order without en banc approval

Oaminal: Sereno should have consulted with De Castro

Both Oaminal and Leachon agreed Sereno should have consulted with De Castro before she altered a TRO issued by the associate justice.

"(The Chief Justice) is duty bound to consult the member in charge making the recommendation if ever she would like to revise the draft recommendation," Oaminal said.

De Castro said Sereno ordered the Commission on Elections from proclaiming 11 other party-list groups during the 2013 elections.

But the case was raffled to the associate justice, who only recommended a TRO on only one party list, the Coalition of Association of Senior Citizens.

"In that particular case, she was not consulted, the Chief Justice just immediately issued the TRO, citing the name of Justice De Castro as the one making the recommendation. And it has departed from the original draft of Justice De Castro," Oaminal added.

Sereno's camp said in a statement Wednesday, the Chief Justice was "expressly empowered" to act on urgent cases, even without the recommendation of the justice in charge of the case.

The House Justice panel will resume the impeachment proceedings on December 5.

CNN Philippines' Eimor Santos and Ver Marcelo contributed to this report.