MANILA -- Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno would go on leave of absence beginning March 1.
According to lawyer Josa Deinla, one of Sereno’s spokespersons, the top magisterate would be on wellness leave to prepare her defense on the ongoing impeachment case filed by lawyer Larry Gadon.
“She’s filing a wellness leave, effective March 1 to 15 during which she intends to prepare her defense. That leave was originally scheduled on March 15 to 23,” Deinla said in text message sent to the Philippine News Agency on Tuesday.
Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio will be the acting Chief Justice once Sereno's leave of absence begins on Thursday.
Sought for a comment, House justice committee chair and Oriental Mindoro Rep. Reynaldo Umali welcomes the Chief Justice's move.
“This is welcome news to the Filipino people. This will give her time to reflect on what would be best for the judiciary which she heads,” Umali said.
Gadon’s complaint, which was endorsed by 25 House members, accused Sereno of culpable violation of the Constitution, corruption, other high crimes and betrayal of public trust.
Gadon stated that Sereno did not declare in her Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth (SALN) the “exorbitant lawyer’s fees” of USD745,000 or PHP37 million which she received from the Philippine government.
Gadon said the issue of SALN declaration is the strongest case presented against the Chief Justice.
The complaint alleged that Sereno committed corruption when she, among other things, used public funds to: finance her extravagant and lavish lifestyle by ordering the purchase of a brand-new luxurious Toyota Land Cruiser 2017 model as her personal vehicle, amounting to more than PHP5 million; and stay in opulent hotels when attending conferences in the country and abroad.
Earlier, Deinla reiterated that Sereno would defend herself in the Senate when it convenes as an impeachment trial court, where her basic and constitutional rights will be recognized and respected. (With reports from Filane Cervantes/PNA)