MANILA, Philippines – The wife of a deceased judge passed away at age 94 without getting to claim the survivorship benefits due her, lawyer Larry Gadon said on Tuesday, October 3, pinning the blame on Supreme Court (SC) Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno.
Dolores Colayco passed away on Monday, October 2, according to Gadon, who filed the impeachment case against Sereno.
"She died without enjoying the pension benefits of her deceased judge spouse which was unreasonably withheld from prompt release by CJ Sereno," Gadon said.
Through a law signed in 2010 by former president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, spouses and dependent children of deceased judges and justices are entitled to survivorship benefits.
Gadon claimed that Sereno "withheld a few thousand pesos [in] survivor benefits for the bedridden, sick, and dying Lola Dolores."
But Sereno's spokesperson Carlo Cruz told Rappler in a text message that the Chief Justice "has no power to unilaterally act on retirement benefits."
"It is the SC, not her, which created a Special Committee on Retirement and Civil Service Benefits," Cruz said.
"As part of the administrative reforms of the Court, applications for retirement benefits are now referred to the Special Committee on Retirement and Civil Service Benefits to help ensure judiciary-wide consistency of rules and grants," they said in the verified answer. (READ: Sereno camp: Gadon himself says allegations not impeachable)
Support within SC
Sereno's lawyers further said that when the committee endorses applications, it is taken up by the SC en banc for approval.
But Gadon said, "No wonder CJ Sereno has no support from fellow SC and Court of Appeals (CA) justices and other lower court judges as well as [the] court employees' association. Zero support."
To that, Cruz responded: "I assure you, the support of SC employees and judges is there, though not as visible as during the time of CJ [Renato] Corona." (READ: Does Sereno have SC's support? Spokesman downplays narrative)
The Chief Justice's spokesperson also reiterated that Sereno will maintain her independence. (READ: Sereno camp rejects Duterte resignation 'challenge')
"CJ Sereno has no intention of 'politicizing' this issue. Her methods and manner are different. She is not a political person. She is determined to maintain the dignity and independence of the SC and of the Office of the Chief Justice," Cruz said. – Rappler.com