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CJ legal team vows to disprove charges

In a statement, Sereno’s spokesman, lawyer Carlo Cruz, denied the allegations in the complaint of Lorenzo Gadon and vowed to disprove them point-by-point. SC/File

MANILA, Philippines — The legal team of Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno questioned the move of the House committee on justice yesterday to forward one of the two impeachment complaints against her for plenary deliberations.

In a statement, Sereno’s spokesman, lawyer Carlo Cruz, denied the allegations in the complaint of Lorenzo Gadon and vowed to disprove them point-by-point.

Cruz questioned why the House panel found basis in the complaint when the “allegations made by Gadon are unsupported by evidence or rely mainly on hearsay consisting of newspaper clippings.”

“We understand that the determinations of the House committee appear to be inconsistent with its findings and actions in similar proceedings in the past,” Gadon pointed out.

“We maintain that, contrary to the findings of the House committee on justice, none of the allegations in the Gadon complaint is true. For this reason, we respectfully submit that the complaint cannot be considered sufficient in form and substance,” he added.

Cruz argued that the allegations against Sereno are not true.

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“None of the allegations rises to an impeachable offense. The complaint against her seems designed to maximize the political spectacle, with the goal of eroding her credibility through innuendo and malicious allegations. This is detrimental to the independence of the judiciary upon which all citizens rely to defend their rights and to check any abuse,” he said.

Cruz, however, assured the public that Sereno would respect the impeachment proceedings and submit her answer to the complaint.

“We are hopeful that Congress will decide based on the merits of the case and affirm their commitment to our democracy over partisan or parochial interests. In the meantime, the Chief Justice continues to discharge her duties with fairness, integrity and humility,” he said.

“She will avail herself of appropriate legal remedies, with the hope that the mechanisms of our democratic system will afford her a fair, transparent and just opportunity to be heard,”  the lawyer added.     Sereno’s camp issued the statement after the House committee on justice voted 30-4 to find Gadon’s complaint sufficient in form and substance.

The other impeachment complaint filed against Sereno by the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption and the Vanguard of the Philippine Constitution Inc. was dismissed for lack of basis.

Forty-one House members have endorsed the impeachment complaints against the Chief Justice.

Sereno is accused of culpable violation of the Constitution and betrayal of public trust over alleged undisclosed assets in her statement of assets, liabilities and net worth and extravagant spending of judicial funds by purchasing a P5-million Toyota Land Cruiser and traveling on first-class flights, among the grounds.

The complainants also cited as basis Sereno’s order in 2012 to reopen a regional constitutional administrative office in Cebu without the collegial approval of the court, which was later revoked by the Supreme Court (SC).

Sereno’s colleagues in the high tribunal earlier granted the request of the complainants for the release of court documents and records to support the charges against her.   

Sereno tapped Cruz as her official spokesman for the impeachment case she is facing in Congress.

Cruz is the son of the late retired SC justice Isagani Cruz and an expert in constitutional and administrative laws.

Cruz graduated cum laude in 1982 from the San Beda law school.

He teaches law subjects at San Beda law school, University of Santo Tomas Faculty of Civil Law and University of the Philippines College of Law.   

Cruz was also a founding partner at the law firm of Cruz Cruz & Navarro III. 

Rody becoming a dictator – LP

President Duterte is leaning closer to becoming a dictator, Liberal Party (LP) lawmakers warned the nation yesterday.

They are Reps. Edcel Lagman of Albay, Jose Christopher Belmonte and Jorge Banal of Quezon City, Raul Daza of Northern Samar, Kaka Bag-ao of Dinagat Islands, Teodoro Baguilat Jr. of Ifugao, Rav Rocamora of Siquijor and Tom Villarin of Akbayan.

They issued the warning in a joint statement after Duterte’s congressmen-allies voted to proceed with impeaching Sereno, whom the President has repeatedly criticized.

“We express our deep concern over the rising trend established by the Duterte administration in silencing the opposition and now, even independent personalities who refuse to be co-opted,” they said.

They said the administration started with their LP colleague Sen. Leila de Lima and is now trying to bring down Sereno “through a trumped-up impeachment complaint.”

“A government that does not embrace and, more so, attacks checks and balances is looming closer toward becoming a dictatorship. Under this kind of regime, no one is spared – not the Chief Justice, not even our young children being targeted in the streets,” they said.     – With Jess Diaz

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