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Sereno’s reorganization led to delays with judges, justices benefits

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By: Xave Gregorio

The Supreme Court (SC) Court Administrator revealed in the impeachment hearing on Tuesday (December 5) that the creation of a new committee to screen applications for survivorship benefits caused delays of up to two years.

SC Court Administrator Midas Marquez said Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno created a committee to process retirement and survivorship claims judges, justices and their spouses.

Associate Justice Antonio Carpio and Associate Justice Presbiterio Velasco also signed the administrative order which created the committee.

The committee, Marquez said, was created after members of the High Court disagreed on whether the law which mandates survivorship benefits for spouses of judges and justices applies retroactively, or before the law came into force.

Marquez said as a result, “all applications received by the Office of the Court of Clerk En Banc beginning October 2015 were held in abeyance.”

The creation of the committee led to a bogging down of the screening process – sometimes spanning as long as two years, Marquez said.

The SC court administrator bared 29 cases of retirement and survivorship claims with delays ranging from one year, two months and 19 days to two years and one month.

Marquez said he uncovered the backlog of retirement and survivorship cases with the committee after a distant relative asked him to follow up on the survivorship benefits of the widow of Court of Appeals Associate Justice Jose Colayco, who was already 94 at the time.

“It is pending with the technical working group in the Office of the Chief Justice. I’ve asked for a list of pending applications and I will take this before the Court,” Marquez read his text message to a certain “Tita” whom he refused to name.

Under the committee created for the processing of retirement and survivorship claims are two technical working groups – one for screening applications and another for legal.

Marquez said he wrote the Chief Justice to expedite the processing of the claims on January 12, but his letter fell on deaf ears.

The High Court only started acting on the pending petitions a week after impeachment complainant Atty. Lorenzo Gadon held a press conference on Sereno’s impeachment, with the SC including the retirement and survivorship petitions in the agenda of consecutive En Banc sessions.

The SC, on November 7, approved 13 of 29 cases Marquez presented before the justice committee – one to two years since they were filed.

Prior to the creation of the committee with its technical working groups, the Office of the Court Administrator processed retirement and survivorship claims.

Marquez showed five cases where retirement and survivorship claims were processed in less than a month.

However, Marquez admitted that the five cases he presented may not be a representative sample for the 271 previously approved retirement and survivorship petitions.

But he assured that the five cazes he showed the justice committee were selected randomly.

Sereno’s alleged delaying of retirement and survivorship benefits for judges and justices is among the 27 allegations in the impeachment complaint against her.