Sereno claims House held judiciary budget hostage for ouster
In this Jan. 15, 2018 photo, the House Committee on Justice resumes its hearing on the impeachment complaint filed against Supreme Court Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno with Justices Diosdado Peralta, Lucas Bersamin and Samuel Martires appearing as resource persons.
Office of the House Speaker
Sereno claims House held judiciary budget hostage for ouster
Audrey Morallo ( - June 19, 2018 - 6:23pm

MANILA, Philippines — The House of Representatives tried to held the budget of the judiciary hostage to force the Supreme Court to release documents for the impeachment case Maria Lourdes Sereno, she said on Tuesday.

Speaking during a forum at the University of the Philippines, Sereno said that the deliberations on the impeachment complaint filed by Lorenzo Gadon coincided with the House discussion on the judiciary's budget.

She said that House Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas (Ilocos Norte) told Justice Diosdado Peralta that House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez had ordered the suspension of the deliberations on the judiciary's budget unless the documents requested by Gadon would be released.

"The message was clear: The House leadership was going to hold hostage the judiciary's budget unless the Supreme Court cooperated fully with its plan to remove me," she said.

Fariñas: Quadruple hearsay

In a statement to reporters, Fariñas dismissed Sereno's allegations as quadruple hearsay.

"She is alleging that Speaker Alvarez told Farinas who told Peralta who told Te, who then told Sereno about the said crazy statement," he said.

He also said that the Supreme Court en banc — Sereno inhibited — approved the release of the records used in impeachment proceedings against her at the House committee on justice.

The House majority leader also pointed out that the House approved General Appropriations bill last  September, months before the impeachment proceedings started.

The Supreme Court approved the release of the documents on August 8.

The release was prompted by requests from Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption and the Vanguard of the Philippine Constitution Inc., who filed impeachment complaints against Sereno.

The complainants requested certified copies of the documents after Fariñas advised VACC lawyer Lorenzo Gadon to verify attachments in his impeachment complaint against Sereno before it can be endorsed by the members of the House of Representatives.

SC upholds quo warranto ruling

Sereno's claim came hours after the Supreme Court ruled with finality to reject her motion for reconsideration for the tribunal to reverse its decision last month removing her as the country's top judge.

The decision of the court would also kick-start the 90-day process of the Judicial and Bar Council of selecting her replacement.

President Rodrigo Duterte in April urged his allies to remove Sereno from office, following months of denial that he was behind efforts to oust her.

Sereno's ouster raised concerns among the political opposition and even international organizations, with the United Nations expert on the independence of lawyers and judges expressing alarm.

Supporters and allies of the president meanwhile urged everyone to follow and respect the decision of the Supreme Court.

"Our constitution mandates the Supreme Court to be the final arbiter of legal and constitutional questions. Let us respect its decision, no matter what our persuasions are," Alvarez said in a statement.

Sereno said that it was naive of her to think that members of the House would resist their leadership's "vindictive agenda" and would be reasonable enough to side with the truth.

"Perhaps, it was naive of me to think that the congressmen and women would take time to pore over the documents with a genuine interest in uncovering the truth rather than blindly following the House leadership," she said.

She said that when the Supreme Court got the message about documents she even wrote a no-objection letter out of confidence that no evidence would be found among them.

She said that she was also hoping to stir the public's confidence in the sincerity and professionalism of the leadership of the Court by demonstrating transparency and accountability.

Despite losing her top judicial post, Sereno vowed to continue holding the government accountable and to lead a "people's movement" to do so.

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