Carpio won’t attend Sereno impeachment hearing

MANILA — Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio declined the invitation of the House committee on justice for him to attend the continuation of the impeachment proceedings against Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno set for Monday.

Carpio said he had no personal knowledge of the issues that the House committee on justice wanted to ask him regarding the impeachment complaint filed by lawyer Lorenzo Gadon against Sereno.

“I regret to inform you that I have to decline to testify because on the matter mentioned for the reason that I have no personal knowledge of these matters,” Carpio said in his two-page letter address to House justice committee chairman Rep. Reynaldo Umali dated Jan. 10, 2018.

The House justice committee wanted Carpio to testify on the allegation that the Chief Justice falsified the temporary restraining order of the Supreme Court in the case of Senior Citizens Party-list vs. the Commission on Elections, a matter which Carpio said he had no personal knowledge.

Carpio also said he was on wellness leave on June 19, 2017, the day when the request of the Department of Justice (DOJ) to transfer the Maute cases from Mindanao to Manila was raffled off to a justice, noting that he was out of the country on such date until July 3, 2017.

The high court’s most senior magistrate also said he did not know anything about the allegation that Sereno lied and made it appear that several justices requested that they dispense with the voting for the recommendees to the Supreme Court.

“I have no personal knowledge of this matter. I wish to state that for years now my position has been that the Court do away with the voting since the Judicial and Bar Council is an independent constitutional body and in any event it has not been following the recommendations of the Court for several years in the past,” Carpio said.

Regarding Sereno’s alleged hiring of an IT consultant with excessive compensation without public bidding, Carpio said he only knew about such matter after the consultancy contract was questioned, long after it had been implemented and renewed, adding that the matter was “under deliberation by the En Banc.”

“Unless the allegations are made specific, I will not be able to comment or testify on such other allegations,” the senior magistrate said.

Apart from Carpio, the committee also invited several other magistrates of the SC, Sandiganbayan, Court of Appeals, trial court judges, and other officials and employees of the judiciary.

The House panel is conducting hearings aimed at determining whether there is probable cause to elevate the complaint filed by Gadon to the Senate, which will act as the impeachment court.

Earlier, Sereno’s camp slammed the testimonies of the magistrates of the SC who appeared before the House justice committee’s hearing on the impeachment proceeding filed against her.

Lawyer Jojo Lacanilao, one of Sereno’s spokespersons, said the testimonies of the magistrates were purely based on personal opinions and could not be used as grounds to remove her from the judiciary’s top post.

Lacanilao was referring to the testimonies of Associate Justices Teresita Leonardo-de Castro, Noel Tijam and Francis Jardeleza and retired Associate Justice Arturo Brion. (PNA)