MANILA, Philippines (5th UPDATE) – Supreme Court (SC) Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno will go on leave earlier than scheduled, multiple sources confirmed to Rappler on Tuesday, February 27.
A reliable source said the SC en banc asked Sereno to go on leave during their session on Tuesday. The source added that the Chief Justice will go on "indefinite leave" starting Thursday, March 1.
But Sereno's spokesperson, lawyer Jojo Lacanilao, said it is a wellness leave taken early from the original date of March 12-23.
"Talagang naka-schedule 'yan matagal na. Ina-advance lang niya... para makapag-prepare rin siya sa Senate trial. So may desisyon siya na i-advance 'yung naka-schedule na wellness leave sa March na a few weeks earlier," Lacanilao said.
(That had been scheduled for a long time now. She's just advancing it so she can prepare for the Senate trial. So she decided to advance her scheduled wellness leave in March a few weeks earlier.)
The development coincided with the last hearing of the House of Representatives committee on justice which is determining probable cause to impeach her. (READ: House to wrap up Sereno impeachment hearing)
In a chance interview with media on the sidelines of the hearing, committee chairman Reynaldo Umali said Sereno's apparent decision is "welcome news" to the public.
"This will give her time to reflect on what would be best for the judiciary which she heads," Umali said.
"This is just a wellness leave. I think just a two-week leave but this says a lot," added Umali, after he "broke" the news of Sereno's leave before the House panel.
Malacañang said Sereno's decision to go on wellness leave, which it called "a personal matter," would not disrupt the operations of the High Court.
"We are confident that there would be no interruption on the day-to-day operations of the High Court and services would continue unhampered," said Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque in a statement.
He echoed Umali in saying that Sereno could use the time to think of what would be best for the High Court.
"As the Chief Justice takes her wellness leave, we hope she would take this as an opportunity to reflect on her time and legacy at the Supreme Court and to consider what would be best for the institution which she heads as top magistrate," Roque said.
The House panel tackled each of the allegations made by lawyer Larry Gadon against Sereno, by speaking to resource persons from the judiciary, including the SC. (READ: How Sereno answered her impeachment complaint) – Rappler.com