Sereno to House: Don’t even hold impeachment hearings
Why should the House of Representatives even hold hearings on an impeachment complaint already shown to be insufficient?
This was the argument of Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, who said lawyer Lorenzo Gadon failed to debunk her rebuttals last week and to shore up the allegations in his impeachment complaint.
Sereno filed on Monday her rejoinder to Gadon’s Sept. 28 reply that tackled her Sept. 25 answer to the impeachment complaint now pending with the House 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,” she said.
Sereno pointed out that Gadon himself said his assertions “will be verified later” in the impeachment proceedings.
Using Gadon’s own statements against him, the Chief Justice said he virtually admitted that the records now would not be enough to form “sufficient grounds for impeachment.” This, she said, “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,” she said. “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 was “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 clustered short lists to the Sandiganbayan’s six simultaneous vacancies, he admitted that former 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
Sereno said the complainant failed to prove that she did not disclose the P37 million in 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.
She also lambasted his 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 Co.
The complainant has the burden of proving first his allegations and that she was presumed to be “innocent of a crime or wrong,” Sereno said.
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 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.
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 Supreme Court through its chief administrative officer.
‘Guilty of perjury’
Sereno accused the lawyer of perjury for signing the verifications page of the complaint stating that 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 Sen. Leila de Lima, her instruction to the Court of Appeals to disobey House processes in the “Ilocos 6” detention case and her instruction for appellate court 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.
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