No questions on pending cases in Sereno presser

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Wednesday, August 27, 2014

ISSUES hounding the Supreme Court (SC) will not be discussed when Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno talks to the press on Thursday.

In an advisory, the SC Public Information Office (PIO) said Wednesday Sereno is not "at liberty" to answer questions on pending cases or in the "reasonably near future" and matters that are under deliberation.

Instead, the chief magistrate will entertain queries on the work of the high court, initiatives on judicial reform and those "relevant to the administration of justice." The press conference will be held at Bayleaf Hotel in Intramuros, Manila from 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. Thursday.

Sereno had the same attitude in her first press conference as top magistrate in August last year, when she skirted comment on the pork barrel scam since the issue might be raised before the SC.

After the presser, petitions were then filed against the constitutionality of the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF).

The Court ruled on the case three months later, as it overturned past decisions siding with the legality of the PDAF, which gave lawmakers discretion and control in the allocation and disbursement of taxpayer’s money.

The SC followed it up with a decision last July striking down key parts of the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), the purported economic stimulus package of President Benigno Aquino III, which was allegedly used in part to bribe senators who voted for the ouster of then Chief Justice Renato Corona in 2012.

Aquino slammed the decision he has since appealed, as the SC allegedly presumed the absence of good faith in the implementation of the DAP.

He also broached the idea of amending the Constitution to clip the powers of the SC, thinking that the Court has broken the balance of power between the three branches of government when it ruled against the Executive department in the DAP case.

His allies in the House of Representatives also threatened Sereno with impeachment over possible misuse of the Judiciary Development Fund (JDF), an allegation that has yet to be substantiated.

Sereno skipped the House justice committee’s hearing on two bills seeking to repeal the JDF law early this month.

But in a letter to Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. dated August 13, Sereno denied allegations of irregularity as audits by the Commission on Audit (COA) on the JDF have not resulted in the issuance of any notice of disallowance.

"Since I assumed office, the COA has not disallowed any expense item, and neither has it found any fraud or irregularity with respect to the management of the fund. That may also be true for the time before then,” she said.

Sereno added she has not received any complaint on how the JDF is being utilized despite the legislators’ questions on the fund, which is being used to augment the salaries of justices, judges and employees, buy office equipment and maintain court facilities. (Sunnex)

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