Thirteen out of the 15 justices of the Supreme Court have said they "arrived at a consensus" that Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno should take an "indefinite leave" for "several reasons."
According to a statement read by Supreme Court Public Information Office chief Theodore Te on Thursday, the top magistrate "consulted" with the two most senior justices and announced she was taking an "indefinite leave, with the amendment that she start her leave on Thursday, March 1, 2018."
"After extended deliberations last Tuesday February 27, 2018, 13 of the Justices present arrived at a consensus that the Chief Justice should take an indefinite leave," the statement said.
"Several reasons were mentioned by the various justices," it added.
The reasons cited by each of the 13 justices were not enumerated in the statement read out by Te.
The statement also clarified that Sereno "did not request the rescheduling of her wellness leave," contrary to statements made by the Chief Justice's camp.
Only Sereno and Associate Justice Alfredo Benjamin S. Caguioa, who was on leave, did not sign the statement.
The high tribunal now considers Sereno, who is facing impeachment proceedings at the House of Representatives and possibly a trial at the Senate, on indefinite leave.
Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio serves as the Acting Chief Justice in her absence.
The Supreme Court also said it "regrets" the confusion stemming from the statements of Sereno's spokespersons on the subject of her leave of absence, which seriously damaged the integrity of the judiciary, particularly the high tribunal.
GMA News Online has sought comment from Sereno's spokespersons. A statement is expected.
It was a spokesperson for Sereno, lawyer Jojo Lacanilao, who initially said the embattled magistrate was taking a "wellness leave."
Lacanilao said that originally, the wellness leave was scheduled for March 12 to 23, but it was rescheduled for March 1 to 15.
"May desisyon siya, personal niya, na i-advance yung naka-schedule na wellness leave niya sa March a few weeks earlier," Lacanilao had said.
House justice committee chair Reynaldo Umali later said a source had told him the nature of the leave was "indefinite."
A letter from Sereno addressed to the Deputy Clerk of Court en banc put to rest the confusion, saying she was taking an "indefinite leave," a part of which will be charged against her "wellness leave" in order to prepare for what her camp has long anticipated would be an impeachment trial at the Senate.
The SC statement said: "In the ordinary course of events, the Court expected the Chief Justice to cause the announcement only of what was really agreed upon without any modification or embellishment."
The statement explained that "this matter shall be dealt with in a separate proceeding."
Sereno's spokespersons have yet to issue a statement regarding this development. —MDM/KG/KBK, GMA News