By HERBIE GOMEZ
Editor in chief
and NITZ ARANCON
A REGIONAL Trial Court judge here yesterday frowned over the call of the Philippine Judges Association (PJA) for Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno to step down.
“I and many other judges in different parts of the country disavow the supposed official stand of the Philippine Judges Association,” said Judge Marites Filomena Rana-Bernales, 1st vice executive judge and presiding judge of the 39th branch of the Regional Trial Court here.
Bernales said most judges were not consulted by the PJA board.
She said she and other judges objected to the manner by which the PJA leadership reached its official position.
Bernales said at least five other judges here share her stand: Vincent Filomeno Rosales of RTC-23, Henry Damasing of RTC-24, Jose Escobido of RTC-37, Emmanuel Pasal of RTC-38, and Ma. Corazon Gaite-Llanderal of RTC-40.
“About 20 RTC judges comprising the majority of the PJA Board voted to support the call for the resignation of the Chief Justice, without consulting us,” she said. “This serious matter was not discussed with us nor voted upon by the general membership.”
There are about 1,200 RTC judges nationwide.
Bernales said, “This is our stand: We do not side with the Chief Justice or any of the titans in the Supreme Court. Let the impeachment proceedings take its course. It is a constitutional process.
“We stand for an independent judiciary.”
She said judges have a Facebook group of almost 500 members, and PJA’s regional directors presumably have their cellphone numbers. She said these could have been used to have some extent of consultation.
“Hence, in this matter, the PJA Board does not speak for us,” she said.
Bernales said while the PJA board makes decisions for the benefit and on behalf of its members, “we believe this does not cover organizational positions on national issues.”
RTC Executive Judge Dennis Alcantar said judges who called on Sereno to step down on Monday would no longer force the issue given that the Chief Magistrate has made her position clear after that.
“As of today, klaro man nga dili siya mo-step down. So, dili man nimo mapogos ang tawo. So, this takes the whole thing to another level,” Alcantar told the Gold Star Daily.
Alcantar said this a day after he joined those who called on Sereno to resign so as to spare the judiciary from damages as a result of moves to impeach her.
On Monday, a number of employees at the Hall of Justice, who supported calls for Sereno’s resignation, wore red. Judge Alcantar himself was shown on local TV wearing a red tie.
The PJA on Monday released a statement that sought Sereno’s resignation. Joining the PJA were the Supreme Court Assembly of Lawyer Employees, Philippine Association of Court Employees, Supreme Court Employees Association, and even the Sandiganbayan Employees Association.
But Alcantar clarified that organized judges only made an appeal, and they were not in the position to force Sereno to do something she did not want to.
He said the impending impeachment trial of the Chief Justice would impact on the entire judiciary, which was why he supported calls for Sereno’s resignation.
Alcantar said, “Dako na kaayo ang damage sa Supreme Court and to the judiciary as a whole. Ang mga official ug mga empleyado mo-testify, ma-polarize.”
He said it was good that Sereno decided to take a leave of absence so that work in the SC would not be disrupted.
While the crisis in the SC divided people in the Hall of Justice, Alcantar assured that it’s “business as usual” for the courts.
“Walay ipikto ug kita, human sa panawahan ug hangyo, balik sa inadlaw nga trabaho. Ako pa man gani nga gi-ingnan ang mga kauban nako sa hudikatora nga bisan lain-lain ang atong mga panan-aw, pero dili na kinahanglan nga mag–debate pa, maglalis pa. Dili na, padayag lang, pagkahuman, balik trabaho,” he said.
Alcantar added: “We are always for the rule of law, our actions are guided by our hopes dili mosamot ug kada-ot ang hudikatora, ang Supreme Court, ug masalbar ang unsa pay masalbar.”