Chief Justice Sereno apologizes for confusion over indefinite leave

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, March 1) — Embattled Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno on Thursday apologized for the confusion caused by her indefinite leave of absence.

In a statement, Sereno said she "had to qualify" her leave because internal rules of the Supreme Court do not contain a provision on "indefinite leave."

"I requested yesterday in writing the rescheduling of my wellness leave in view of my restudy of the rules," she explained.

The Chief Justice also apologized because her spokespersons had "inaccurately" relayed to the public the information regarding her leave.

"It is unfortunate that my plan of making use of an already approved wellness leave in relation to an indefinite leave was inaccurately conveyed for which I apologize." she added.

Jojo Lacanilao, a spokesperson for Sereno, also apologized, explaining the camp was "working on available information."

“There was no malice on anyone of us to confuse, mislead, or obfuscate what were fast-developing events in the Supreme Court,” Lacanilao said in a press briefing.

This comes after 13 justices of the Supreme Court issued a statement, saying the announcements made by Sereno's camp had caused confusion "which seriously damaged the integrity of the Supreme Court in general and the Supreme Court in particular."

It was the first time the high court spoke about events that transpired in the controversial en banc session on Tuesday. It was after the meeting that Sereno's spokespersons announced the Chief Justice was taking a break. They said Sereno only "advanced" the wellness leave she had earlier filed initially set from March 12 to 23.

Sereno, in her letter to the Supreme Court dated February 27, said she was charging a portion of her indefinite leave against the approved wellness leave, citing March 1 to 15. Her spokespersons, however, said the Chief Jutice would take a wellness leave on those dates and it was up to her if she wanted to extend her leave beyond March 15.

In their statement, the justices noted that the Chief Justice "did not request the rescheduling of her wellness leave."

READ: SC: 13 justices wanted Sereno to go on indefinite leave

A highly-reliable source in the Supreme Court told CNN Philippines that the justices would discuss in an en banc session next week the Sereno camp's liability in the matter. The source accused Sereno of lying to the justices.

Sereno is going on leave as the House committee on Justice is set to vote next week on probable cause in the impeachment case against her. The panel will send a committee report to the plenary afterwards.

If at least one-third of the members of the House of Representatives vote to impeach Sereno, the complaint would go to trial at the Senate.

The impeachment case prompted calls for the chief magistrate to resign. She is accused of violating the Constitution, corruption, betrayal of public trust, and other high crimes which are grounds for impeachment under the Constitution.

Sereno has repeatedly said she would not step down from office, denying allegations against her as she asked for the impeachment complaint to be junked.

Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio will be acting Chief Justice while Sereno is away.

READ: Carpio is acting Chief Justice as Sereno goes on leave

CNN Philippines' Anjo Alimario contributed to this report.