Purchase of P5.2-M SUV for Sereno ‘in order,’ says SC justice
A Supreme Court (SC) associate justice said on Monday that there was no irregularity in Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno’s acquisition of the P5.2-million sports utility vehicle.
At the resumption of the probable cause hearings of the House of Representatives justice committee on the impeachment case lodged against Sereno, Associate Justice Mariano del Castillo testified that the procurement of the Land Cruiser was done “in order.”
“As far as I’m concerned, this case was raffled to me, the rollo was given to me, I went over the rollo, bidding was published in the Philippine Star. I find the procurement process in order, then there’s the law allowing the exemption of the Chief Justice from the ban on luxury cars,” Del Castillo told the panel.
“So in other words, there was no legal basis for me to deny the recommendation so I passed it on to the court,” he added.
The associate justice was referring to Administrative Order 233 series of 2008, which prohibits government officials and employees from purchasing luxury service vehicles. But the same order also provides for an exemption in the case of the top five officials of the country, including Sereno.
This exemption was also confirmed by Associate Justice Teresita Leonardo-de Castro, who also admitted that they did not object with the procurement of the vehicle.
“We couldn’t object because there was a memo… What I can recall was that what was placed in the agenda was for the court to approve the notice of award. It was already at that stage. It was already at the end of the process,” she said.
When asked if this was the first time a chief justice preferred a luxury vehicle, Del Castillo said former CJs Reynato Puno and Renato Corona, didn’t avail of the exemption from the ban on luxury vehicles.
Del Castillo also pointed out that Sereno raised some death threats as reasons behind her preferred vehicle. He added that the prerogative to choose a preferred vehicle is “not exclusive” to the chief justice, as associate justices were asked too.
Despite this, he pointed out that he was clueless on the allegation that the acquisition of the vehicle was “predetermined.”
“We only learned the Land Cruiser had been predetermined during a testimony in the House impeachment hearing,” Del Castillo said.
According to Del Castillo, the luxury vehicle was registered under the SC and was not named under Sereno.
“Just like our service vehicles they’re not in our names. They’re in the name of the SC,” he said.
Lawyer-complainant Lorenzo Gadon is accusing the top magistrate of committing corruption particularly when she allegedly used public funds to purchase the luxury vehicle, which Sereno’s camp had repeatedly denied.
Gadon is also accusing the top magistrate of culpable violation of the Constitution, betrayal of public trust, and other high crimes. /cbb
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