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Sereno camp seeks dismissal of impeachment case

The complaint filed by lawyer Lorenzo Gadon against Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno before the House of Representatives did not cite any impeachable offense, her defense lawyers declared yesterday.SC, File

MANILA, Philippines — The complaint filed by lawyer Lorenzo Gadon against Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno before the House of Representatives did not cite any impeachable offense, her defense lawyers declared yesterday. 

“The charges are totally false, absolutely without basis in facts and applicable law. The acts alleged do not even constitute grounds for impeachment under the Constitution,” defense counsel Alex Poblador said in a news conference in Quezon City. 

Citing many other grounds, Sereno’s lawyers submitted yesterday an 85-page reply-affidavit, along with 15 attachments, to the House committee on justice of Oriental Mindoro Rep. Reynaldo Umali.  

Gadon had accused Sereno of committing acts like culpable violation of the 1987 Constitution, corruption, other high crimes and betrayal of public trust in his impeachment complaint.

But Poblador argued that all the charges, including the purchase of an P8.7-million bulletproof 2017 Toyota Land Cruiser, were “totally false and without basis” because these were authorized by the full 15-man Supreme Court (SC). 

Owning and using such a sport utility vehicle is not an impeachable offense, according to him. Under the law, the President, Vice President, Senate President, House Speaker and Chief Justice are allowed by the DBM to purchase luxury vehicles.  

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“It was acquired for purposes of security. You might want to know all these years, the Chief Justice has depended on hand-me-down vehicles. The Chief Justice using hand-me-down vehicles that break down regularly,” Poblador said.

He explained that before the acquisition of the Land Cruiser, Sereno was only using a “bulletproof blanket hung over the window over her (Hyundai) Starex van and a vest on one side, so the other side is completely open. 

“The husband purchased for her a bulletproof vest. That is how miserable her condition was. So why make an issue about the acquisition of this vehicle when it is exempted by law on the ban on acquisition of luxury vehicles and approved by the highest board of the land?”

All of Sereno’s predecessors used Hyundai Starex vans, just like the associate justices. 

Poblador also noted that some of the “authentic documents” Gadon used were newspaper clippings, while other documents that were sourced from the SC do not support any of the charges.

He cited for instance the release of a resolution on Administrative Matter 12-11-9-SC supposedly adopted in November 2012 creating the Judiciary Decentralized Office and reopening the Regional Court Administration Office in Central Visayas.

Poblador said that while the resolution may be related to the charges, it does not prove that the decision ratifying the revival of the Region 7 court administration office was forged “because he has no knowledge of the deliberations of the SC operations.”

“There is no evidence based on personal knowledge of the alleged falsification,” he said.

The defense lawyer also described as “illogical” the accusation that the Chief Justice would falsify a recommended draft of a temporary stay order “when under internal rules of the SC, during recess she has full power as Chief Justice to issue a TRO.”

Unlike judges, the chief justice does not issue arrest or search warrants on the basis that the 15-member high tribunal is a collegial body, which either upholds or reverses rulings of lower courts. The SC is also where constitutional issues are deliberated.

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