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Point by point: Sereno answers impeachment complaint

Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno is the subject of an impeachment complaint filed by lawyer Larry Gadon.

MANILA, Philippines (First published Sept. 26) — Article XI of the 1987 Constitution or the Accountability of Public Officers holds that the president, the vice president, the members of the Supreme Court, members of Constitutional Commissions, and the ombudsman may be removed from office through impeachment upon conviction of treason, bribery, graft and corruption, other high crimes or betrayal of public trust.

Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, the highest magistrate of the land, is currently being accused of these grounds by Duterte Youth lawyer and defeated senatorial candidate Larry Gadon.

Gadon's impeachment complaint has already hurdled the House of Representatives's justice committee, after it was deemed that the complaint is sufficient in form and substance.

What will happen to the impeachment complaint against Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno?

On Monday, Sereno's team, led by seasoned lawyer Alex Poblador addressed Gadon's allegations in their 85-paged Verified Answer filed before the House of Representatives.

ALSO READ: Impeachment against Sereno raises political questions

Culpable violation of constitution

  • Gadon says Sereno committed culpable violation of constitution when she "falsified Supreme Court resolutions and temporary restraining order."

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    But Sereno says: "For obvious reasons, the Chief Justice cannot 'falsify' her own notes. And poor note-taking, even assuming that was the case (this is strongly denied), certainly does not amount to a 'culpable violation of the Constitution."

  • Gadon says Sereno committed culpable violation of constitution when "delayed action of petitions for retirement benefits of justices and judges and surviving spouses."

    But Sereno says: "[C]hanges in procedure and processes were adopted to help ensure the prompt action on applications and consistent rulings and grants… Under this new system, there has been significant improvement in the speed, efficiency, and consistency in the processing of petitions for retirement benefits."

  • Gadon says Sereno committed culpable violation of constitution when she "failed to truthfully disclose her Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth (SALN)"

    But Sereno says: "She declared all the fees received in her income tax returns for 2004 to 2009, and she paid the corresponding taxes thereon… All assets and investments bought or acquired from the remainder of these fees are truthfully reflected in her SALNs."

  • Gadon says Sereno committed culpable violation of constitution when she "manipulated the Judicial and Bar Council and its shortlists"

    But Sereno says: "The Chief Justice, as a member and ex officio chairman of the JBC, is entitled to her own opinion on the qualifications of an applicant for a position in the Judiciary. Her expression of such opinion within the confines of the existing JBC rules cannot amount to a violation of the Constitution, much less one which is 'culpable' in nature and for which she deserves to be impeached."

Corruption

  • Gadon says Sereno committed corruption when she "ordered the purchase of Land Cruiser 2017 as her personal vehicle, amounting to more than Five Million Pesos"

    But Sereno says: "No less than the Supreme Court en banc itself, in a Resolution dated 28 March 2017 in A.M. No. 17-03-06 SC, approved the acquisition of the Land Cruiser for the price of Five Million One Hundred Ten Thousand Five Hundred Pesos… The Land Cruiser was purchased to ensure the safety and security of the Chief Justice, and not because she 'took fancy at (sic) a luxurious sports utility vehicle.'"

  • Gadon says Sereno committed corruption when she "used public funds to stay in opulent hotels (Presidential Villa in Boracay)."

    But Sereno says: "No fee, in addition to what had been paid for the 'Room Block' of which the 'Presidential Villa' was already part of, was charged and paid for by the Supreme Court for the use of the villa during the 3rd [ASEAN Chief Justices Meeting.]"

  • Gadon says Sereno committed corruption when she took "business of first class [flights] together with her staff and security."

    But Sereno says: "Complainant is apparently unaware that, under Rule XII-19, II.B.6.b of the Supreme Court Human Resource Manual, the Chief Justice is expressly allowed to travel on 'full business class,' while the other members of the Court are not allowed to do so. She did not ask for that privilege."

  • Gadon says Sereno committed corruption when she "unnecessarily brings 'huge entourage of lawyers' in foreign trips."

    But Sereno says: "[T]he Chief Justice never brought with her 'a huge entourage' of lawyers during her trips abroad. She brought only such number of lawyers as were necessary to assist her given the nature and objective of the official trip."

High crimes

  • Gadon says Sereno committed other high crimes when she "obstructed justice by ordering the Muntinlupa Judges not to issue warrants of arrest against Senator Leila M. De Lima."

    But Sereno says: "This is a barefaced lie. The Chief Justice has never spoken to any of these three judges on this matter, and neither did she instruct any Supreme Court official to instruct the judges to not issue a warrant of arrest."

  • Gadon says Sereno committed other high crimes when she "perverted justice by ,eeting the Presiding Justice and Associate Justices of the Court of Appeals and instructing them not to comply with the processes of the HOR on Ilocos Six release."

    But Sereno says: "Then CA Presiding Justice (now Supreme Court Associate Justice) Andres B. Reyes, Jr. conferred with the Chief Justice in connection with the show-cause order of the HOR. The Chief Justice essentially advised him that the CA Justices should consider their own legal remedies."

  • Gadon says Sereno committed other high crimes when she "embellished her Personal Data Sheet in her application for the Judiciary to overstate her credentials."

    But Sereno says: "The Chief Justice clearly did not 'embellish' or 'overstate' her credentials in her 2010 PDS. Granting for the sake of argument that there are errors in the Chief Justice's 2010 PDS, she cannot be impeached for those errors since they all took place before she joined the SC, and before she became Chief Justice."

Public trust

  • Gadon says Sereno betrayed the public trust when she "sent a strongly-worded but misplaced reply to President Rodrigo Roa Duterte on the Judges linked to drugs thereby inviting a head-on collision between the Presidency and the Judiciary."

    But Sereno says: "The 8 August 2016 letter not only demonstrated the Chief Justice's genuine concern for the welfare of all members of the Judiciary (including those accused of involvement in illegal drugs), but also her willingness, through the SC's power of administrative supervision over lower courts, to cooperate and work with President in his campaign against illegal drugs."

  • Gadon says Sereno betrayed public trust when she "prevented the Justices of the Court of Appeals to do a courtesy call on President Rodrigo Duterte."

    But Sereno says: "The Chief Justice cannot 'prevent' any member of the Judiciary, much less the CA Presiding Justice, from visiting the President. However, as Head of Judiciary, she may occasionally remind magistrates of the first Canon of the Code of Conduct which is entitled 'Independence.'"

  • Gadon says Sereno betrayed public trust when 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."

    But Sereno says: "[R]ead in its proper setting and context, the Chief Justice's commencement address was far from an 'attack' on President Duterte's declaration of Martial Law… Most importantly, the commencement address was an exercise of the Chief Justice's right of free speech. It was her view on a matter of public interest and history."

  • Gadon says Sereno betrayed public trust when she "issued a Joint Statement with the Presiding Justice of the Court of Appeals regarding the Ilocos Six issue, which can very well be elevated to the Supreme Court."

    But Sereno says: "The Joint Statement was about the HOR's threat of contempt and/or detention against three members of the Judiciary for acts committed in the performance of their judicial functions. It was not about the legality of the ongoing detention of the Ilocos Six."

  • Gadon says Sereno betrayed public trust when  she "usurped the mandate of the Court en banc by arrogating to herself alone the running of the Supreme Court and the Judiciary, thereby destroying the Supreme Court as a collegial body."

    But Sereno says: "[T]he Chief Justice, by her conduct as described above, has in fact been zealously protecting the independence of the Judiciary as the third branch of Government."

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