By Ellson Quismorio
It was Supreme Court (SC) Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno who decided to take over Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre’s request to transfer the cases filed against Maute Group terrorists outside of Mindanao.
SC Clerk of Court Felipa Anama admitted this Wednesday before congressmen-members of the House Committee on Justice, which resumed its hearings on the impeachment case filed by lawyer Larry Gadon against Sereno.
Anama said the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) letter asking for such transfer was not raffled off to any member of the High Tribunal, which would have been consistent with their rules.
“[The request was] with [Sereno] since she already acted on it right from the start,” Anama, who was appointed by Sereno, bared during 1-SAGIP Party-List Rep. Rodante Marcoleta’s interpellation of her.
Sereno assumed jurisdiction on the Aguirre request on June 6, nine days after it reached the SC. The High Court was in recess at the time it received the letter, which was described as urgent.
Anama told the Justice panel that Aguirre’s request was supposed to be raffled off to one of the 15 magistrates of the SC on June 19. But it didn’t push through since it was already with the Chief Justice.
“She was the one who assigned [the matter to herself]. As Chief Justice, she has the prerogative,” Anama said during questioning by Anak Mindanao Party-List Rep. Mackmod Mending Jr.
Asked by Mending if Sereno’s act was an exception to the accepted rule of raffling off requests like that of Aguirre’s, Anama answered: “We just presumed that the Chief Justice had already acted on it.”
Marcoleta went on to highlight the absence of a raffle and Sereno’s unilateral action.
“So it’s now clear that no actual raffle happened. Just because the Chief Justice assigned the matter to her, she already assumed jurisdiction. It was a plain assignment,” said the Supermajority solon.
Gadon is accusing Sereno of culpable violation of the Constitution for allegedly manipulating and delaying the resolution on the request of the Justice chief to transfer the Maute cases to a court located in either Luzon or Visayas.
There are 26 other allegations listed in Gadon’s impeachment complaint.
In an earlier hearing by the panel, Aguirre testified that he wrote Sereno on May 29 purposely to ask for the transfer of the trial of Maute suspects, for security reasons. But the SC moved the venue of the cases to Cagayan de Oro City, which is still in Mindanao.
On June 13, Aguirre filed a motion for reconsideration on the SC decision for the safety of the members of the judiciary who will conduct inquest proceedings, preliminary investigation and trial of the cases against the alleged terrorists.
Aguirre in a follow up letter on June 14 asked that the cases be transferred instead to the regional trial court in Taguig City.