By Ellson Quismorio
The camp of Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno confirmed Tuesday that the Supreme Court (SC) leader has gone on a “wellness leave,” but at the same time stressed that she won’t resign amid the impeachment proceeding against her.
Lawyer Jojo Lacanilao, Sereno spokesperson, said that the particular leave had been scheduled for March, but that the Chief Justice opted to take it early “so she may prepare for the Senate [impeachment trial].”
“Talagang naka-schedule na yun matagal na. Ina-advance lang niya, matatapos na rin ang February (That has been scheduled a long time ago. She took it in advance, February is almost over),” Lacanilao told House reporters on the sidelines of the Justice Committee 15th and last hearing on the determination of probable cause in Sereno’s impeachment complaint.
Sereno availed of the wellness leave a week before the expected declaration of probable cause by the House panel, which would then pave the way for the Senate impeachment trial.
If found guilty of any of the Articles of Impeachment to be submitted by the congressmen, then Sereno would be removed from office.
Lacanilao maintained that Sereno doesn’t have any plans of resigning amid the impending trial.
“Definitely [she’s not resigning]. Please keep that away from your mind. She is not going to resign. She is preparing to face this [trial at the Senate]. So doon na rin tayo magkikita pag matapos na dito sa House of Representatives at doon po maririnig ninyo na ang istorya ni Chief Justice Sereno (We will see each other there once all is done here in the House of Representatives and then you will hear Chief Justice Sereno’s story).”
“Naniniwala siya na wala siyang ginawang masama, Ang katotohanan nasa kanya,. Wala siyang kinomit na impeachable offense kaya wala po siyang balak mag-resign (She believes that she didn’t do anything wrong, truth is on her side, she didn’t commit any impeachable offense and that’s why she doesn’t plan to resign),” he said.
Lacanilao couldn’t say how long the wellness leave will take, but said that “it’s unsafe to call it an indefinite leave.”
“Kasi mayroon naman ‘yang schedule. Hindi ko lang alam (There’s a schedule, I just don’t know it),” the mouthpiece said.
“Definitely hindi yun indefinite dahil babalik si Chief Justice. Until ma-convict siya, siya ay Chief Justice ng ating bansa (Definitely it’s not an indefinite leave because the Chief Justice will come back. Until she is convicted, she will remain as the country’s Chief Justice),” he added.
What’s a wellness leave?
Asked by a reporter to define what a wellness leave is, Lacanilao gave this answer:
“I don’t know…para sumigabo ulit siguro yung kanyang katawan. At yun naman talagang scheduled na yun. Hindi naman yun bago lang. Dahil lang sa mga nangyayari ngayon, gusto niyang mag-umpisa na para maka-prepare.”
(Maybe it’s to strengthen her body. And that has been long scheduled. It’s not newly filed. Because of current event, she wants to begin her leave so she may prepare.)
He went on to joke: “[Baka mag-] spa. Pabayaan naman natin siyang mag mani-pedi paminsan minsan (She might go to a spa. We should let her have a mani-pedi from time to time).”
Sereno, Lacanilao said, has no sickness of any kind, “pero tayo naman maski wala tayong sakit (but even if we’re not sick), we need also some kind of break especially when you’re facing stress in terms of the trial.”
According to him, then President Benigno S. Aquino III’s appointee filed for a wellness leave “definitely before the impeachment hearings.”
Lawyer Larry Gadon, a known supporter of President Rodrigo Duterte, filed a verified impeachment complaint against Sereno in August 2017.
Gadon is accusing Sereno of culpable violation of the Constitution, betrayal of public trust, corruption, and other high crimes for her alleged litany of lapses including untruthful declaration of her wealth.