SOURCE: Press and Public Affairs Bureau
Officials of the Supreme Court on Wednesday appeared as resource persons before the House of Representatives committee on justice as it continued its deliberation on the determination of probable cause on the impeachment complaint filed against Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno.
Present at the hearing were Jose Midas Marquez, Court Administrator, Supreme Court; Felipa Anama, Clerk of Court; Anna-Li Papa-Gombio, Deputy Clerk of Court and Chairperson, Special Committee on Retirement and Civil Service Benefits; Jocelyn Fabian, Chairperson, Technical Working Group, Special Committee on Retirement and Civil Service Benefits; and Charlotte Labayani, Chief Judicial Officer, Employees’ Welfare and Benefits Division, Office of Administrative Services, Office of the Court Administrator.
Rep. Reynaldo Umali (2nd District, Oriental Mindoro), justice committee chairman, revealed that Supreme Court Associate Justice Samuel Martires conveyed his willingness to testify in the next hearings once he secured authorization from the Supreme Court en banc.
Umali appealed to panel members to refrain from asking opinions or conclusions of law, but instead focus on the allegations and claims as stated in the pleadings submitted to the committee.
Members of the justice panel committee took turns in questioning SC Clerk of Court Felipa Anama on the supposed delay in the issuance of resolution on the petition of Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II to transfer the Maute case outside Mindanao.
As the Clerk of Court, Anama serves as the secretary of the Raffle Committee of the Supreme Court and is responsible for the recording of the raffle proceedings and submitting the minutes to the Chief Justice.
When asked by Rep. Ruwel Peter Gonzaga (2nd District, Compostela Valley) if the Maute case was raffled among the Supreme Court justices, Anama replied that it was raffled.
However, during intense questioning by Rep. Rodante Marcoleta (Party-list, SAGIP), Anama admitted that the case was not raffled and it was Chief Justice Sereno who took cognizance of the case as the Court was not convened considering the urgency of the petition.
Marcoleta pointed out that Anama’s term as Clerk of Court had been extended by the Chief Justice.
Rep. Henry Oaminal (2nd District, Misamis Occidental), vice chairman of the House committee on justice, saying the confidentiality rule being consistently invoked by Anama, raised the issue of which prevails in a situation where there is a conflict between the rules governing administrative matters of the Supreme Court or the rules of the impeachment committee.
He pointed out that a consensus reached in the previous hearings was that resource persons could only invoke confidentiality if the issue involves national security.
Rep. Vicente Veloso (3rd District, Leyte), vice chairman of the justice panel and former Court of Appeals justice, stressed that if the case or petition had already been resolved, as in the resolution involving the Maute case, Anama could no longer cite the confidentiality rule.
Deputy Speaker Gwendolyn Garcia (3rd District, Cebu) lamented that Anama kept on insisting the confidentiality rule when the said rule covers only cases which are still being heard.
Garcia underscored that the issue was not even an administrative case but only an administrative matter.
Umali told Anama and the other resource persons that confidentiality rule could only be invoked on Bar matters, administrative cases, and criminal cases where the penalty imposed is life imprisonment.
Umali appealed to the resource persons, witnesses, and even the respondent to provide the justice committee with the necessary information and stressed that the impeachment proceeding is all about exacting accountability on any erring impeachable official.
House justice committee members chided Anama for being evasive and urged her to be more cooperative as the impeachment committee is doing its best to ferret out the truth. / ABR