This is the overwhelming public sentiment over the unprecedented appearance of sitting and retired Supreme Court Justices in the impeachment hearing being conducted by the Committee on Justice of the House of Representatives against Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno.
During yesterday’s resumption of the proceedings, Associate Justices Francis Jardeleza and Noel Tijam, as well as retired Justice Arturo Brion, appeared before the committee of the lower house tasked to determine if probable cause exists to try the Chief Justice for various grounds raised by Atty. Larry Gadon in his impeachment complaint.
Senior Associate Justice Teresita De Castro and Court Administrator Midas Marquez were also present. They had been appearing in the hearing since last week.
In essence, the justices of the highest court of the land ranted and aired their disagreement and disapprobation on certain acts of Sereno as Chief Justice.
Specifically, the Chief Justice has been accused of deciding matters on her own instead of letting the Supreme Court En Banc, or the court as a whole, to decide which, according to the Justices who stood witnesses on the hearing, effectively curtailed the power of the court as a collegial body.
The matters included in this issue are the establishment of the Regional Court Administrator’s Office (RCAO) in Region VII, the issuance of the temporary restraining order (TRO) in the proclamation of the winners in the election for party-list and the request of the Department of Justice (DOJ) to transfer the hearing of Maute cases from Marawi City to Taguig City.
However, netizens, political observers and legal luminaries opine that these grievances are internal issues that can be and should be resolved by the justices among themselves. In fact, to underscore this point, in the above-cited three instances, Sereno was overruled by the Supreme Court en banc disproving the allegation that the latter’s power as a collegial body is being curtailed by the highest magistrate of the land.
Moreover, the so-called transgressions of Sereno, granting that they true, are not by themselves impeachable offenses. In a collegial body composed of fifteen (15) members, it is inevitable that there will be disagreements and dissent among its members. But it does not mean that the Chief Justice committed a serious offense or infraction that will justify impeachment and, if convicted, removal from office.
That is why a lot of people were disgusted when the justices chose to appear at the nationally-televised impeachment proceedings and washed their dirty linen for the whole world to see.
Some netizens, on the other hand, made fun of the appearance of the justices and suggested that in lieu of participating and dignifying the political zarzuela happening in the lower house, the members of the Supreme Court should instead organize a team building activity, hold bull sessions or open-forums or simply plan a drinking spree where each member can vent out his frustrations and iron out the differences among themselves.
While some have pointed to envy and bitterness as the overriding motive why the older justices are ganging up on the much younger chief justice.
De Castro, for instance, has admitted her disappointment when Sereno was appointed as chief justice by then President Noynoy Aquino even if she was just in her second year at that time as associate justice of the Supreme Court. But many citizens think that De Castro’s personal vendetta against Sereno is motivated by the fact that she was by-passed as chief justice and, in the process, ruined her ambition of heading the entire judicial branch of government.
Buddy Gomez, a contributing writer at ABS-CBN News, said it best when he wrote his opinion article entitled A Supreme Miscalculation Reaps The Whirlwind.
“She is younger, gifted with a more pleasant visage, personality and temperament than her accuser Justice de Castro. A junior at that in the Bench’s pecking order. Junior Justice, that is until Ms. Sereno was appointed by President Aquino to be Chief Magistrate, a post Justice de Castro was also vying for, as revealed during her Congressional appearance,” Gomez penned.
It is unfortunate that De Castro and her coterie of whining and sourgraping Justices opted to go public to wash their dirty linen. But the good side of this sad chapter is that the Filipino people were able to know the kind of Justices that we have in the Supreme Court: Ambitious, petty, vindictive and unprincipled.