In a text message, the SC-PIO told GMA News Online that from the third floor of the Supreme Court Annex Building along Padre Faura in Manila, the SC-PIO has “temporarily relocated” to the building’s sixth floor.
“We shall be holding office at the 6th floor Annex for about two weeks until renovation of our new office at SC-CA building is done,” the SC-PIO said.
A highly placed SC source told GMA News Online that the transfer was meant to give way to Leonen and his staff. “Right after appointment, Leonen immediately inspected the SC-PIO as he was planning to transfer there,” the source said.
This was confirmed in a letter by SC PIO chief and spokesperson Ma. Victoria Gleoresty Guerra to Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno. Sereno indicated that the relocation was a result of an “urgency for Justice Leonen’s chambers to have the privacy and space it requires.”
The court source said Leonen ended up occupying the SC-PIO as a result of on-going building renovations at the SC.
“Kapag may umaalis na justice, pasa-pasa lang iyang mga rooms ng justices. Eh kapag may inaayos pa na room, hindi kagad nakakalipat, kaya ang bagong pasok na justice will usually have to wait,” the source added.
The most junior SC member, Leonen was appointed to the SC on November 21, shortly after the bilateral deal was signed, filling the slot vacated with the ouster of Chief Justice Renato Corona.
After his appointment, Leonen would often be seen going in and out of the SC-PIO office on the third floor. As it turned out, he was assigned to hold temporary office in the area.
Leonen was the former chief peace negotiator for the government who helped forge a historic deal with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front on the new political entity of Bangsamoro. Prior to this, he taught law and was former dean of the University of the Philippines College of Law.
Sereno and Leonen are two of President Benigno Aquino III’s four appointees to the high court. The 11 other magistrates had been appointed to the SC during the time of Aquino’s predecessor former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.
Former SC spokesman Midas Marquez last year left the SC-PIO after Corona’s ouster. Guerra temporarily replaced him, until Sereno in December last year announced the appointment of UP law professor and human rights lawyer Theodore Te as the new SC-PIO chief and spokesman. — BM, GMA News