By Ben R. Rosario
Batangas Rep. Vilma Santos-Recto witnessed a very tense moment between two of the country’s top lady magistrates during a gathering last Wednesday.
The lawmaker, a popular actress dubbed as the “Star for All Seasons,” described the scene as a very tense moment usually seen in films in real life.
Santos-Recto recounted that she was seated between Chief Justice Maria Lourdes P.A. Sereno and her alleged arch critic, Associate Justice Teresita Leonardo de Castro, during the 30th anniversary celebration of the Philippine Women Judges Association at the historic landmark Manila Hotel.
The two justices, who attend the affair celebrating the theme “Fabulous #30,” have figured in the opposite sides of the impeachment case filed against Sereno.
De Castro testified several times before the House Committee on Justice that voted on Thursday to find probable cause to elevate the case against Sereno to the Senate.
But the cold war between the two leading legal minds in the country reportedly started long before the impeachment complaint was filed by lawyer Larry Gadon.
Santos-Recto, vice chairperson of the House Committee on Local Government, was among the guest speakers of the event that was staged in celebration of International Women’s Day.
She told a DZBB radio interview that the atmosphere was already tense the moment she arrived. “Unang una, pagdating ko, tense na ako kasi imagine, puro ‘Your Honors’ iyong kaharap ko,” Santos-Recto said.
She recounted how she felt when Sereno stood to address the audience, mostly women members of the Judiciary and the country’s legal profession.
“Naramdaman ko ang bigat ng loob after ng mensahe ni Chief Justice,” recalled Santos-Recto, noting that the Chief Justice talked about the alleged “unfairness” of the impeachment proceeding.
Sereno’s criticism did not come unanswered as De Castro, PWJA president, cautioned that what she spoke about cannot be discussed publicly because of the “sub judice” rule.
Santos-Recto said she also listened intently as De Castro said her piece.
It was only when she spoke that Santos-Recto confessed to the audience what she had been feeling as she shared the stage with two clashing justices of the High Tribunal. “Ang bigat-bigat ng loob ko …Puwede ho ba magkwentuhan na lang tayo,” Santos-Recto said in an apparent bid to cheer up everybody.
The audience broke silence when the actress declared that what they should do was to do as the theme of the celebration said: “We all think fabulous.”