The camp of Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno accused lawyer Lorenzo Gadon of engaging in a "fishing expedition" in a House of Representatives hearing. Pantaleon Alvarez/Released, File

Sereno lawyers slam Gadon's 'fishing expedition' at House panel hearing
Audrey Morallo (philstar.com) - November 23, 2017 - 8:50am

MANILA, Philippines — The lawyers of embattled Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno on Thursday blasted what they criticized as a "fishing expedition" by lawyer Lorenzo Gadon at a House of Representatives hearing on the probable cause of the impeachment case against her.

Sereno spokesperson Josa Deinla said that Wednesday's hearing by the House Justice Committee was marked by requests from Gadon to subpoena witnesses and documents, a proof that the lawyer did not have sufficient evidence to support his allegations against the chief magistrate.

“It is pretty clear that Mr. Gadon’s allegations have no strong and solid bases, owing to his failure to provide the justice committee with evidence he claimed to have personal knowledge of,” Deinla said.

“We are right from the beginning that his impeachment complaint was nothing but garbage and should have not been entertained in the first place,” she said.

READ: Sereno spokesman: Impeachment based on 'double hearsay'

The chief magistrate's spokesman stressed that the House of Representatives should not allow public money to fund Gadon's fishing expedition, which Deina described an "appalling" search for evidence.

She called on Oriental Mindoro Rep. Reynaldo Umali to prevent Gadon from "[putting] the cart before the horse and get away with it."

“Mr. Gadon’s resorting to fishing expedition, with the aid of some members of the committee, served to highlight one crucial fact—there is no solid evidence and sufficient grounds for impeachment against the Chief Justice,” Deinla said.

READ:  Unable to defend Sereno at House, lawyers want case taken to Senate

Sereno is accused of 27 acts which allegedly are tantamount to impeachable offenses such as culpable violation of the Constitution (11 acts), corruption (three acts), other high crimes (four acts) and betrayal of public trust (nine acts).

Some of the allegations against the chief justice are falsification of a Supreme Court resolution designating the head of the Judiciary Decentralized Office in the Seventh Judicial Region, falsification of a temporary restraining order in the case of a party-list against the COMELEC, falsification of the resolution of the Court on the allegation of involvement of four incumbent judges in the drug trade, delayed action on the petitions for retirement benefits of judges and justices and their surviving spouses and failure to declare some of her wealth in her Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth.

Even some members of the House noticed some of Gadon's omissions in his case such as his failure to specify the years covered by his allegations pertaining to the SALN of Sereno.

“At first glance, with due respect to this committee, it seems that we are now on a fishing expedition because we do not have a definite year of SALN,” Rep. Rodel Batocabe of Ako Bicol Party-list said.

Rep. Jose Christopher "Kit" Belmonte made the same observation and said that Gadon seemed to be using the justice committee hearing to obtain the evidence to back up his allegations.

"I'd like to stress to my good friend [Gadon] and his counsel that the committee's job is to determine probable cause. What is happening is that the committee is the one working for him to build the evidence he needs," Belmonte said in Filipino and English.

READ: Sereno hints of Duterte hand in her impeachment

Detained Sen. Leila de Lima agreed with Sereno over her decision not to appear before the committee, saying that its members, whose integrity is suspect, should not be probing a woman of unquestionable probity and courage.

"Because the Sereno impeachment is a political operation of these Duterte lackeys, their judgment on the Chief Justice is a foregone conclusion. As one social media joke goes, this administration’s railroad project is not from Manila to Clark, it is only in the Batasan," she said.

READ: House panel finds sufficient ground to impeach Sereno

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