Sereno asks House: Don’t allow Gadon’s fishing expedition
Why should the House of Representatives even hold hearings on an impeachment complaint already shown to be insufficient now?
This was the argument of Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, saying lawyer Lorenzo Gadon failed to shore up the allegations in his impeachment complaint with sufficient evidence and debunk her rebuttals last week.
Sereno filed on Monday her rejoinder to Gadon’s Sept. 28 reply that addressed her Sept. 25 answer to the impeachment complaint now pending with the House of Representatives’ justice committee.
“The Reply, with its countless inane personal attacks on the incumbent head of the Judiciary, has done nothing to help Complainant’s cause,” read her strongly-worded rejoinder.
Sereno pointed out that Gadon himself said his assertions “will be verified later” in the impeachment proceedings.
Using Gadon’s own statements against him, Sereno said he virtually admitted that the records now would not be enough to form “sufficient grounds for impeachment.”
It stated that the House should not allow the complainants to try to prove the allegations at the hearing itself in order to fish for evidence, stressing that “‘sufficient grounds for impeachment’ is a legal precondition for the conduct of a hearing.”
“A hearing is not the means to achieve that sufficiency. Complainant clearly wants to put the cart before the horse and get away with it,” read Sereno’s rejoinder. “The people’s money should never fund a fishing expedition.”
The rejoinder noted the following admissions by Gadon that would show the insufficiency of his case:
– On her acquisition of a Toyota Land Cruiser, he said the Chief Justice is “allowed by some existing rules to purchase and use a luxury vehicle.”
– On her business-class trips, Gadon conceded the issue was “not its legality, but its propriety.”
– On the issue of clustered shortlists to the Sandiganbayan’s six simultaneous vacancies, Gadon admitted that President Benigno Aquino III ignored it anyway, which meant Sereno as a member of the Judicial and Bar Council did not “impair” his presidential power.
– Gadon admitted that mental condition is not a ground for impeachment.
Contradicted by his evidence
Meanwhile, Sereno said Gadon failed to prove she failed to disclose the P37-million attorney’s fees she allegedly earned from 2003 to 2008 in her Statements of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth beginning 2010, as if it was still intact by the time she joined the Supreme Court.
She said Gadon should have included the corresponding evidence of undisclosed assets in his complaint or even the reply.
Sereno also lambasted Gadon’s claim that she must prove that she paid the correct taxes on the attorney’s fees she earned from winning the government’s case against Philippine International Air Terminals Company, Inc. (Piatco).
She noted that the complainant always has the burden of proving first his allegations and she is presumed to be “innocent of a crime or wrong.”
Sereno also noted that some of the grounds Gadon presented conflicted with his very own evidence.
While he claimed the P5.11-million Land Cruiser purchase was “extravagant,” he also attached Commission on Audit Circular No. 2012-003 which made an exception for vehicles used for “security” reasons by the Chief Justice and other high-ranking officials. S
Sereno said Gadon’s own evidence substantiated her explanation that her allegedly unauthorized hiring of information and communications technology consultant Helen Perez-Macasaet was actually approved by the SC through its chief administrative officer.
‘Guilty of perjury’
Sereno also said Gadon was “guilty of perjury” for signing the verifications page of the complaint stating his allegations were based on “personal knowledge” or “authentic records and public documents.”
Such allegations include Sereno’s supposed call to Associate Justice Noel Tijam to manipulate the transfer of the Maute cases, her order not to issue warrants of arrest against Senator Leila de Lima, her instruction to the Court of Appeals to disobey the House’s processes in the Ilocos Six detention case, and her instruction for CA justices not to go on a courtesy call with President Duterte.
“Not a single shred of evidence supports these four accusations… Without evidence now, these charges cannot constitute ‘sufficient’ grounds for impeachment,” the rejoinder read.
Gadon also failed to prove the allegation that Sereno tried to manipulate four JBC members by calling them individually to her office and begging to either vote for or reject a particular applicant.
Meanwhile, Sereno also said three of the allegations concerning vacancies in the judiciary, the appointment of the chief of office of the Philippine Mediation Center Office, and foreign travel allowances for court staff are matters still pending resolution by the SC.
“At the very least, the High Court should be allowed to resolve these matters, without interference from the Hon. Committee,” read the rejoinder.
Sereno won’t resign
Sereno’s impeachment case comes as President Duterte has issued increasingly antagonistic statements against the chief of a branch of government traditionally seen as part of the system of checks and balances in a functioning democracy.
Mr. Duterte on Saturday evening even dared Sereno, as well as Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales, to resign together with him as he comes under fire for allegations of unexplained wealth.
But, Sereno’s lawyer Josalee Deinla told reporters on Monday: “The Chief Justice will not resign because she has done nothing unlawful, illegal and impeachable.”
“Ang gusto niya lang mangyari, eh, makapagpatuloy siya sa paggampan sa kanyang mga tungkulin bilang Punong Mahistrado ng Korte Suprema (What she only wants is to continue fulfilling her duties as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court),” Deinla said.
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