SC: 13 justices wanted Sereno to go on indefinite leave

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, March 1) — Thirteen justices of the Supreme Court urged Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno to take an indefinite leave, the high court announced Thursday.

"After extended deliberations last Tuesday, February 27, 2018, 13 of the justices present arrived at the consensus that the Chief Justice should take an indefinite leave," Supreme Court Spokesperson Theodore Te said in a press briefing, quoting a statement signed by the 13 justices.

Associate Justice Benjamin Caguioa was not present because he was on leave.

The justices wanted Sereno to take a break for several reasons. After consulting with the two most senior justices, Antonio Carpio and Presbitero Velasco, Jr., Sereno supposedly announced during an en banc meeting she was going on an indefinite leave starting March 1, according to the justices' statement.

The justices issued the statement a day after the lawyers of Sereno announced the Chief Justice would go on a wellness leave from March 1 to 15.

The justices said they issued a statement to finally "address the confusion" arising from Sereno's spokespersons.

READ: House panel issues show cause order for Sereno spokesperson  

Sereno, in her letter to the Supreme Court dated February 27, said she is charging a portion of her leave against her wellness leave – from March 1 to 15. Her spokespersons said it would be up to her to extend her leave or not.

They also said Sereno only "advanced" the wellness leave she had filed which was initially set from March 12 to 23.

The justices, however, stressed the Chief Justice "did not request the rescheduling of her wellness leave," as earlier claimed by her spokespersons.

The high court said it "regrets the confusion that the announcements and media releases of the spokespersons of the Chief Justice have caused which seriously damaged the integrity of the Supreme Court in general and the Supreme Court in particular."

Sereno is taking a leave as the House committee on Justice is expected to vote next week on probable cause in the impeachment case against her. The panel will send a committee report to the plenary.

A vote of at least one-third of the members of the House of Representatives may then start an impeachment trial at the Senate.

The impeachment case prompted calls for the chief magistrate to resign. She is accused of violating the Constitution, corruption, betrayal of public trust, and other high crimes - grounds for officials to be impeached under the Constitution.

Sereno repeatedly said she will not step down from office, as she has denied all allegations against her and asked for the impeachment complaint to be junked.

Carpio will be acting Chief Justice while Sereno is away.

CNN Philippines' Anjo Alimario contributed to this report.