MANILA, Philippines – Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno threatened then Court of Appeals (CA) Presiding Justice Andres Reyes Jr., which prompted the magistrate to cancel his meeting with President Rodrigo Duterte.
Reyes, who is now an Associate Justice of SC, said Sereno told him that his initiative to seek a meeting with the President, together with the CA justices, could end his career.
“Since she told me ‘this might end your career,’ I did not anymore argue with her. I did not go anymore, so she would see that I was not defying her,” Reyes told the House justice committee at its 11th hearing to determine probable cause on the impeachment complaint against Sereno.
“I was really affected when she said this could end your career,” he added.
Reyes said the meeting with the President pushed through because the courtesy call could no longer be cancelled. However, he decided not to go with the other CA justices. They also amended their letter to Malacañang and said that their agenda was limited to presenting commemorative coins and stamps, and did not anymore discuss judicial matters.
He said that during his meeting with Sereno to discuss the Palace meeting, the Chief Justice also told him to prepare a letter apologizing to the en banc because of the request for a courtesy call with the President.
Another Associate Justice, Teresita Leonardo De Castro, said there was no move from the en banc to sanction Reyes.
“She’s trying to convince us that Reyes needs to show cause (for his action), thus she has to mention judicial independence, but the court thought her recommendation was too harsh and that there’s no need to sanction the justice,” De Castro said.
“I was surprised there was a dressing down of Presiding Justice Reyes. In fact, I asked a friend to tell him it was not that bad because I learned that for two weeks, he was not able to report for work,” she added.
Sereno’s alleged move to prevent the CA justices from meeting with the President was one of the impeachable acts identified by lawyer Larry Gadon, the complainant in the case.
Gadon alleged that Sereno culpably violated the Constitution, betrayed public trust and committed graft and other high crimes.
In her verified reply, Sereno denied prohibiting the CA Justices from meeting the President. However, as Head of Judiciary, she said she may occasionally remind magistrates of the first Canon of the Code of Conduct which is entitled ‘Independence.’