(Updated, 11:58 a.m.) The House of Representatives justice committee found sufficient in form and substance the impeachment complaint filed by lawyer Larry Gadon against Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno.
During the justice committee hearing on Wednesday, 30 members found the Gadon impeachment complaints to be sufficient in form.
It was sufficient in form because the complaints were duly endorsed and verified by 41 lawmakers.
Coop-Natcco Rep. Anthony Bravo, among the lawmaker-endorsers, moved to find the complaint filed by Gadon sufficient in form, citing the need for Congress to look into the allegations that Sereno is unfit to hold public office.
“Same as the charges against court personnel must be acted on by the Supreme Court, so the charges against the Chief Magistrate must be heard by the institution that can hold the Chief Justice accountable – the Congress,” Bravo said.
Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate, Akbayan Rep Tom Villarin, and Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman opposed the motion, saying the complaint should fail in form because it was based on newspaper clippings.
But committee chairperson Oriental Mindoro Rep. Reynaldo Umali and majority leader Rudy Fariñas vouched that the complaint is based on authentic documents, released by the Supreme Court on Aug. 15.
Fariñas said the Gadon complaint even contained certified true copies of resolutions from the Supreme Court, and Sereno’s Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Networth (SALN).
When the vote was called out, at least 30 members of the committee stood up in favor of the impeachment complaint.
Later on, at least 30 members of the committee stood up finding the complaint sufficient in substance.
The complaint is sufficient in substance if the recital of facts constitute the offenses charged.
At least four lawmakers opposed the finding of sufficient substance.
In his opening speech, Umali touted the political nature of an impeachment proceeding, and that the lower House as duly elected representatives of the people should step in to protect democratic institutions like the Supreme Court.
“To summarize, the power of impeachment is vested in Congress, governed by Constitution and rules of impeachment proceedings,” Umali said.
“We should remember impeach proceedings are political in nature. The power of impeachment is exercised by duly elected representatives of the people,” he added.
In his complaint, Gadon accused Sereno of corruption for using “public funds to finance her extravagant and lavish lifestyle by ordering the purchase of a brand-new luxurious Toyota Land Cruiser 2017 model as her personal vehicle, amounting to more than P5 million.”
“Respondent Sereno was not content with the vehicles assigned to her, a fairly recent model of Toyota Camry sedan and a Hyundai Starexvan. She wanted more,” Gadon said.
Gadon also accused Sereno of corruption for using taxpayers’ money to “stay in opulent hotels when attending conferences in the Philippines and abroad, and flying on business or first class together with her staff and security.”
“She used public funds to flaunt her extravagance by unnecessarily bringing a huge entourage of lawyers in her supposed official foreign trips,” Gadon said in the impeachment complaint.
Culpable violation of Constitution, SALN
Gadon said Sereno committed a culpable violation of the Constitution for allegedly failing to truthfully disclose her SALN.
Gadon alleged that Sereno was “untruthful” because she “deliberately excluded” in her SALN alleged “exorbitant lawyer’s fees” amounting to $745,000 or P37 million she received from the Philippine government.
“Accordingly, the failure of Respondent Sereno to be truthful in her SALN is another instance of culpable violation of the Constitution that merits her immediate dismissal from the service,” Gadon said.
The issue of SALN declarations by magistrates is a sensitive issue since the late Chief Justice Renato Corona was convicted by Congress acting as an impeachment court for false declarations of wealth in his SALN.
Sereno is also accused of culpably violating of the Constitution when she “manipulated” the shortlist of the Judicial and Bar Council to exclude former Solicitor General Francis Jardeleza over “personal and political reasons, thereby disgracing then Sol. Gen. Jardeleza, and curtailing the President’s power to appoint him.”
Betrayal of public trust
Gadon accused Sereno of betraying the public trust for her “strongly-worded but misplaced reply” on President Rodrigo Duterte’s narcolist implicating judges in the drug trade, urging the magistrates not to surrender to police without an arrest warrant.
Gadon also alleged that Sereno “prevented the Justices of the Court of Appeals to do a courtesy call on President Rodrigo Roa Duterte.”
Gadon also cited Sereno’s message supposedly attacking Duterte’s martial law imposition in Mindanao, even when petitions questioning the martial law was then pending before the Supreme Court.
“She attacked the imposition of Martial Law in a commencement address, while the validity of Martial Law was still pending before the Supreme Court, and later continued to participate in the Court’s deliberations,” Gadon said.
Gadon also accused Sereno of “usurp(ing) the mandate of the Court enbanc by arrogating to herself alone the running of the Supreme Court and the Judiciary, thereby destroying the Supreme Court as a collegial body.”
Other high crimes
Gadon also accused Sereno of committing other high crimes, when she allegedly “obstructed justice by ordering the Muntinlupa Judges not to issue warrants of arrest against Senator Leila M. De Lima.”
Sereno also allegedly “perverted justice” when she met with the Presiding Justice and Associate Justices of the Court of Appeals instructing them not to comply with the processes of the House of Representatives, which earlier issued a show cause order against the appellate justices who granted the writ of habeas corpus of the Ilocos Six.
Gadon also accused Sereno of “fail(ing) to report her extortionate attorney’s fees and pay the appropriate taxes therefor,” as well as “embellish(ing) her Personal Data Sheet (PDS) in her application for the Judiciary to overstate her credentials.” /idl
Subscribe to INQUIRER PLUS to get access to The Philippine Daily Inquirer & other 70+ titles, share up to 5 gadgets, listen to the news, download as early as 4am & share articles on social media. Call 896 6000.