Sereno quit-call mounts

Five Sandigan workers’ unions sign manifesto

THE president of the Sandiganbayan Employees Association on Monday said most rank-and-file employees of the anti-graft court support the call for Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno to resign.

SEA president and Fifth Division bailiff Michael Balon said an informal survey of the group’s 206 members showed that a majority wanted Sereno—who faces an impeachment trial and a quo warranto petition in the Supreme Court—to step down.

The SEA was among five employees’ unions in the judiciary that signed a manifesto on Sunday calling on Sereno to resign.

On Monday, the Palace urged Sereno to listen to the sentiments of judges and employees of the judiciary and resign to restore peace and order in the judiciary.

Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque said Sereno should consider the call of the judges and save the Supreme Court from further damage.

“I guess it’s up to her... No one can force her to resign if she doesn’t want. However, I think the sentiment even of the lower court judges has been made known, and we can only hope that the chief justice will take all these sentiments into consideration,” Roque told reporters in a press briefing. 

In a statement, the Philippine Judges Association and four court employees’ unions appealed to Sereno to quit saying. “It is time to let go. Please let the judiciary move on,” the statement read.

Roque said the Palace had nothing to do with the pressure on Sereno to resign.

So far, her colleagues have asked her to go on indefinite leave, and the lower court judges have asked her to resign. We can only ask her to consider all these calls from various stakeholders within the courts itself,” he said.

Sereno has refused to resign, saying she will fight to the end of her impeachment trial before the Senate.

Senators on Monday said former Senate president Juan Ponce Enrile was well qualified to be a part of the prosecution team since he was the presiding officer in the impeachment trial of former chief justice Renato Corona.

Senator Panfilo Lacson, however, said neither he nor his colleagues would be influenced by the former Senate president.

Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III welcomed Enrile’s “homecoming,” and said the Senate is ready to hear, try and decide Sereno’s case. 

Senator Francis Escudero said it was a good move on the part of the prosecution to get Enrile into its team.

Also on Monday, the lawyer who filed the impeachment complaint against Sereno, Lorenzo Gadon, also asked the Justice Department to indict several of her people for graft.

In separate complaints, Gadon sought the indictment of Supreme Court Deputy Clerk Of Court Anna-Li Papa-Gombio, Sereno’s staff head Ma. Lourdes Oliveros and members Michael Ocampo and Jocelyn Fabias, and former IT consultant Helen Macasaet.

SUPREME SACRIFICE. Erwin Ocson (right, before the microphone), president of the Supreme Court Employees Union, on Monday asks Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, in a manifesto he has just read to resign from her post during the flag-raising ceremony. Sereno, who maintained she would not resign and fight until the end of the impeachment case, says she will stand up against those who want to undermine the judiciary. Norman Cruz
Gardon accused Gombio and Fabias of violating the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act over the alleged delay in the release of survivorship benefits for widows of judges, one of the charges in the impeachment complaint against Sereno.

Gombio is chairman of the SC’s special committee on retirement and civil service benefits, while Fabias is chairman of the legal technical working group.

“They caused undue injury and damage to surviving spouses of retired justices and judges through manifest partiality and evident bad faith or gross inexcusable negligence,” Gadon alleged in his complaint. 

During hearings of the House panel, it was revealed that the two respondents were responsible for the “unwarranted and unusual delay” in processing of application of 29 survivors of deceased judges.

 “It took them two years before they initiated a study on this. Before, when they were not yet involved in the claims and it is being handled by the Office of the Court Administrator, it would only take at most two weeks before the claims would be approved,” the complaint read.

In the other complaint, Gadon accused Oliveros, Ocampo and Macasaet of violating  the Government Procurement Reform Act in connection with the hiring of Macasaet.

The complainant alleged that only two of Macasaet’s eight contracts of service passed the Bids and Awards Committee while the six others were renewed by Sereno without the knowledge and approval of the BAC.

The splitting of the contracts was meant to evade competitive bidding, Gadon said.

Gadon also questioned Macasaet’s compensation of P100,000 a month under the first contract and P250,000 a month a month in succeeding contracts, saying this was “way beyond” the compensation ceiling set by the Department of Budget and Management.

“By reason of compensation alone, the contracts of service… upon the recommendation and influence of respondents Oliveros and Ocampo, are manifestly and grossly disadvantageous to the government,” he said.

Gadon accused Oliveros and Ocampo, for their part, of “manifest partiality, evident bad faith or gross inexcusable negligence” in the performance of their administrative duties. 

 Macasaet’s hiring was also among the allegations in the impeachment case against Sereno.

Topics: Sandiganbayan Employees Association , anti-graft court support , Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno , resign , SEA president , Fifth Division bailiff , Michael Balon

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