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Sources bare how SC justices forced Sereno to take leave

Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno refused to go on leave as suggested by her colleagues during the Supreme Court's en banc session on Tuesday, several sources told GMA News on Tuesday.

The magistrates, however, prevailed after they threatened to call for Sereno's resignation if she didn't take the break.

Sereno, who is facing an impeachment proceeding at the House of Representatives, was trying to keep her composure when the justices confronted her, a highly placed source said.

According to the source, a justice initiated the discussion in which he told Sereno to take an indefinite leave.

Sereno balked at the suggestion but the same justice said that the magistrates would be forced to go public and call for her resignation.

The source said another justice intervened and said the members of the High Tribunal wouldn’t want to call for her resignation and so the justice reiterated that Sereno should take a leave.

The source said ten out of the 15-member court were either for Sereno's resignation or for her taking an indefinite leave.

A second source said the justices wanted Sereno to leave the en banc meeting so the justices could hold an executive session but this time, Sereno prevailed.

The first source said that Associate Justice Marvic Leonen moved for an executive session to exclude Sereno and transfer the chairmanship of the meeting to Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio.

Sereno declined and said she would consult her lawyers.

Other justices shot back at Sereno and asked why there was a need to consult her lawyers.

“You mean to say your lawyers are members of this Court?” a justice asked her.

It was at this point that Sereno asked to talk to the two most senior justices of the court Carpio and Associate Justice Presbitero Velasco privately.

After the three met, it was announced that Sereno would take an indefinite leave starting March 1.

“I don’t want the two other branches of government to use the coercive power of impeachment against the Court. We have to protect the integrity of the Court. Otherwise, democracy is in peril. Let the cleansing start from within, not without,” Associate Justice Samuel Martires said.

A Supreme Court insider said this was the first time in the Court’s history that a Chief Justice was asked to take a leave by his or her colleagues.

‘Wellness leave’

A spokesperson for Sereno denied that she had been coerced into taking an indefinite leave.

Lawyer Jojo Lacanilao said Sereno had scheduled a "wellness leave" for mid-March but had decided to advance by a couple of weeks.

Lacanilao said Sereno decided to take it earlier so she could prepare for the expected impeachment trial at the Senate.

"May desisyon siya, personal niya, na i-advance yung naka-schedule na wellness leave niya sa March a few weeks earlier," Lacanilao said. —NB, GMA News