Sereno calls out lawyer for ‘untrue’ accusation of delay in solving case

MANILA, Philippines – Supreme Court Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno called out Eligio Mallari, a lawyer allied with the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC), over “untrue” statements that there was delay in resolving his land dispute case.

Atty. Mallari claims that the case has been pending for 37 years. This is untrue,” Sereno said in a statement on Thursday, December 14. 

Mallari and his Vanguard of the Philippine Constitution joined the VACC in filing their impeachment complaint against Sereno. It was Larry Gadon’s complaint though that prospered.

But Mallari sent House justice committee chairman Representative Reynaldo Umali a letter requesting that his land dispute case with the Philippine National Bank be included in the ongoing investigation. The VACC backed Mallari and said the House panel should raise this as part of accusations against Sereno.

Sereno said that “due to movements caused by retirements,” Mallari’s petition was raffled back and forth and landed with her First Division “only in the latter part of 2017.”

“That the matter is with the First Division, which the Chief Justice chairs and of which Associate Justice Teresita L. De Castro is the Working Chairperson, is by itself insufficient basis to charge anybody for undue delay. Atty. Mallari should know very well that the Supreme Court is a collegial and deliberative body which adjudicates en banc or in division,” Sereno said.

Land dispute

Mallari’s petition involves parcels of land in San Fernando, which he claims he owns but were also being claimed by farmers as covered in the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP).

Philippine National Bank (PNB) is also claiming the land.

“There have already been three Decisions by the Supreme Court on these parcels of land, all of which are entitled “Spouses Mallari v. PNB”: G.R. No. 61093, decided on May 25, 1988, G.R. No. 106615 on March 20, 2002 and reversed on January 15, 2004,” Sereno said.

In 2013, Mallari again filed a new petition before the SC that remains pending with the First Division to this day.

“We advise Atty. Mallari and the public to thoroughly verify the facts before coming to any conclusion regarding cases,” Sereno said.

PNB is claiming ownership after land titles for farmers were canceled in 2011 in favor of Mallari. Arguing that Mallari defaulted on payments, PNB says now that they are the rightful owners of the land.

In a report by the Inquirer in 2015, the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) said it was the Office of the President (OP) under the Gloria Arroyo administration in 2008 which canceled the land titles previously given to farmers.

Coincidentally in 2007, Mallari, as former commissioner of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR), cleared retired Major General Jovito Palparan from the extrajudicial killing (EJK) and other human rights violation complaints filed against the general. –

Lian Buan

Lian Buan covers justice and corruption for Rappler. She is interested in decisions, pleadings, audits, contracts, and other documents that establish a trail. If you have leads, email or tweet @lianbuan.