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Group asks SC to probe de Castro for disclosing ‘confidential matters’

An anticorruption group on Monday urged the Supreme Court to investigate and punish Associate Justice Teresita Leonardo-de Castro for allegedly breaking the high court’s internal rules by disclosing “confidential matters” that were used in the impeachment case against Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno in the House of Representatives.

The information that De Castro allegedly gave to Manila Times reporter Jomar Canlas was cited by lawyer Lorenzo Gadon in the impeachment complaint he brought against Sereno.

De Castro, the high court’s second most senior justice, on Wednesday denied being the source of Canlas in a report he wrote about a court ruling that Sereno allegedly tampered with.

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Gadon told the House justice committee on that day that Canlas had told him that it was De Castro who had given him information about the supposed document that the Chief Justice had allegedly falsified.

‘Possible misconduct’

In a five-page ethics complaint, the Filipino Alliance for Transparency and Empowerment (FATE) asked the Supreme Court to investigate De Castro and punish her for “possible misconduct” to “maintain the integrity” of the tribunal.

But the complaint, submitted by Jociel Camarillo-Quilban, did not identify the court matters and information that De Castro had allegedly given to Canlas.

The group said De Castro might have violated Rule 9 and Rule 10 of the Supreme Court’s internal rules that spelled out policies on the confidentiality of the full court’s sessions and deliberations.

De Castro and Associate Justice Noel Tijam have informed the House justice committee that they are willing to testify in the impeachment hearing, but that they first need to get permission from the full Supreme Court.

Sereno has informed the committee through counsel that she has decided not to appear personally at the impeachment proceedings but she will “monitor the hearings on television and from the gallery.”

In a Nov. 24 letter to the House committee chair, Oriental Mindoro Rep. Reynaldo Umali, De Castro asked to be given time to seek clearance from the full court during its session on Tuesday to “produce at the hearing all internal communications, memorand[ums] and other documents related to the allegations in the verified impeachment complaint.”

“As soon as the said clearance is granted, I shall honor your invitation to attend the aforementioned hearing,” she said.

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July internal memo

De Castro was invited to attend the hearing to shed light on an internal memorandum she issued in July and sent to her fellow magistrates questioning some of the actions Sereno had taken without securing full-court approval, including matters on official travel and judicial appointments.

She will also be asked about Gadon’s allegation that Sereno “falsified” a temporary restraining order that De Castro had drafted involving the case of a disqualified party-list group of senior citizens.

In a separate letter, Tijam assured Umali’s committee of his willingness to appear at the hearing “as soon as approval of the [full court] is secured and the pertinent documents are collated.”

Tijam’s testimony has been sought on Gadon’s allegation that Sereno unduly delayed the transfer of cases involving the Maute band of terrorists from courts in Marawi City to courts in Metro Manila.

Similar letters were written by former Associate Justice Arturo Brion and other Supreme Court officials, including Administrator Jose Midas Marquez and public information office chief Theodore Te.

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