SC Clerk of Court: Transfer of Maute cases assigned to Sereno

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, December 6) — Supreme Court Clerk of Court Atty. Felipa Anama said Wednesday Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre's request for Maute cases to be transferred outside Mindanao was assigned to Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, and not raffled off.

Anama said this at the House hearing on the impeachment case against Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno.

"Yung raffle committee na yung nagassign sa kaniya (Sereno) kasi siya na po yung nag-aksyon eh," she said.

[Translation: The raffle committee assigned it to her because she had acted on it.]

This is contrary to usual court procedure, which requires cases to be raffled off to justices.

According to Anama, the raffling committee had assigned the request to Sereno because she had acted on it before.

"Kasama po ang AM number sa iraraffle. But considering naaksyunan na. Sa kanya na po," she said.

[Translation: The AM number was included in the cases up for raffling, but since she had acted on it, it was given to her.]

The Raffling Committee is chaired by Associate Justice Antonio Carpio.

Aguirre filed the letter-request to the Supreme Court on May 29, when session was on recess. It was addressed to Sereno.

Anama said because the session was on break and the letter was addressed to Sereno, the Chief Justice acted on the matter, which is allowed under the rules. 

She clarified while as a general rule cases are raffled off, there are exceptions to the case, such as in urgent matters.

"When the court is in recess and the urgency of case requires immediate action, the Clerk of Court or the Division Clerk of Court should personally transmit the rolio to the Chief Justice or the division chairperson for his or her action. In this case po, yung letter addressed kay Chief so diretso po kay Chief iyon [In this case, the letter was addressed to the Chief Justice so it went straight to her]," Anama said.

Anama's admission came after a long-winded inquiry by lawmakers.

Initially, Anama had refused to divulge who the case had been raffled off to, as it was confidential to the Supreme Court.

Lawmakers, however, said there was nothing to keep confidential as the matter had already been resolved.

"You are not being very cooperative to this committee. We are trying to arrive at the facts. Please help us kasi kayo po yung in charge ng raffle," Umali told Anama.

Some members of the Justice Committee also questioned Anama's supposed loyalty to Sereno.

"There appears to be a tendency as loyalty because you have been extended under her term," Marcoleta said after Anama admitted the case was assigned to Sereno.

Anama, who has worked with the En Banc for 37 years, begged to differ. She said her loyalty was "to the institution."

"I beg to disagree, your honor. Nagtratrabaho lang po tayo [I'm just working]," she said.

The supposed delay in the resolution on Aguirre's request is one of the allegations cited by Atty. Lorenzo Gadon in his impeachment complaint against Sereno.

He said Sereno wanted to transfer the Maute cases to Cagayan de Oro, but the En Banc decided on June 27 to transfer the Maute cases to Taguig City, as requested by Aguirre.

Gadon said, Sereno delayed the release of this resolution and only issued it almost a month later on July 20.

According to Gadon, Sereno had committed culpable violation of the Constitution when she "manipulated and thereafter delayed the resolution " of Aguirre's request.

Prior to the hearing, Sereno's camp said the alleged delay in a Supreme Court's resolution is not an impeachable offense.

"Any supposed 'delay' in the resolution by the Supreme Court of Sec. Aguirre's request cannot be attributed to Chief Justice Sereno," their statement read. It added, it was the high court en banc that handled Aguirre's requests.

READ: Chief Justice cannot be impeached for 'delay' in decision on Aguirre's request, Sereno camp says

Lawmakers grill SC committee on delay of retiree benefits

Meanwhile, lawmakers also pressed heads of the Special Committee on Retirement and Civil Service Benefits and two technical workings groups on the supposed delay in processing of applications for judges' benefits.

The TWGs and special working committee came under fire after Court Administrator Midas Marquez on Tuesday said it had caused what used to be a two to three week process to take as long as two years.

READ: Court Administrator: Groups formed by Sereno created delay in judges' benefits

Marquez said the Special Committee was created by Sereno with Associate Justices Antonio Carpio and Presbitero Velasco, while the TWGs were created by Sereno on her own to assist the special committee. They were intended to streamline the processing of pension applications from legitimate spouses who have survived a deceased member of the judiciary.

But instead of speeding up the processing of the survivors' pensions, Marquez said it took the committee and the TWGs more than two years before approving 12 of 29 applications.

When asked why it so long to act on the pending applications, the officials said they needed to settle some issues on the technicalities on provisions of Republic Act 9946, which grants of benefits to the justices' surviving spouses.

"It is the court sir that found the need for more thorough study of the applications for benefits," Technical Working Group Chairperson Atty. Jocelyn Fabian said.

Committee chairperson Anna-Li Papa-Gombio said they had to wait for the court to settle some legal issues first before they could fully process the applications.

This included determining if the justices who retired before the law was enacted in 2010 are also entitled to the benefits.

She said the issues have now been settled, and the committee was able to complete the screening of 37 benefit applications from justices who retired before the law was enacted. She assured that the processing of the benefits will now be faster since all the legal issues have been settled.

The House panel was on its sixth day of determining probable cause in the impeachment complaint against the Chief Justice. Aside from culpable violation of the constitution, Gadon has also accused Sereno of corruption, betrayal of public trust, and other high crimes.

CNN Philippines' Makoi Popioco and Amanda Lingao contributed to this report