(Eagle News) — The impeachment complaint filed by lawyer Larry Gadon against Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno has been found sufficient in form and substance.
Thirty lawmakers voted for the motion filed by Coop-Natcco Rep. Anthony Bravo to find the complaint sufficient in form, which means it was duly endorsed and verified.
Bravo was among the 41 lawmakers who endorsed the complaint, which accused Sereno of culpable violation of the Constitution, betrayal of public trust, and high crimes.
Akbayan Rep Tom Villarin, Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, and Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Zarate opposed the motion.
Thirty lawmakers also later found the complaint sufficient in substance, vis a vis the four who did not.
When a complaint is sufficient in substance, the facts that are stated there constitute the offenses that are being charged against the impeachable official.
In his complaint, Gadon accused Sereno of corruption for using “public funds” to “stay in opulent hotels when attending conferences in the Philippines and abroad, and flying on business or first class together with her staff and security,” and “to finance her extravagant and lavish lifestyle by ordering the purchase of a brand-new luxurious Toyota Land Cruiser 2017 model as her personal vehicle, amounting to more than P5 million.”
Gadon also accused Sereno of “usurping the mandate of the Court” when she “arrogat(ed) to herself alone the running of the Supreme Court and the Judiciary, thereby destroying the Supreme Court as a collegial body.”
It also took her to task for supposedly urging judges not to surrender to police without an arrest warrant after President Rodrigo Duterte said there were “narcojudges” in the country, for speaking against the imposition of martial law even when there were pending motions before the High Court, and for “prevent(ing) the Justices of the Court of Appeals to do a courtesy call on” the President.
Gadon said all these acts constitute a betrayal of public trust.
In the complaint, Gadon also accused Sereno of culpable violation of the Constitution after she “deliberately excluded” in her Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth $745,000 or P37 million in “exorbitant lawyer’s fees,” and supposedly excluded former Solicitor General Francis Jardeleza from the shortlist of the Judicial and Bar Council over “personal and political reasons, thereby disgracing then Sol. Gen. Jardeleza, and curtailing the President’s power to appoint him.”
Gadon said Sereno was also guilty of “high crimes” when she supposedly told Court of Appeals magistrates not to comply with the show cause order issued by the House of Representatives against the CA justices who granted a writ of habeas corpus in favor of the Ilocos Six, and when she allegedly ordered judges of the Muntinlupa court not to issue warrants of arrest against Senator Leila M. De Lima.
In a statement, Atty. Carlo Cruz, newly installed spokesperson of Sereno, said “contrary to the findings of the House committee on justice, none of the allegations in the complaint is true.”
According to Cruz, Sereno “has always lived a modest, God-fearing lifestyle,” and “has followed her oath of office and conducted herself with strict faithfulness to that oath.”
“For this reason, we respectfully submit that the complaint cannot be considered sufficient in both form and substance. None of the allegations rises to an impeachable offense,” he said.
According to Cruz, instead, the “complaint against (Sereno) seem(s) designed to maximize the political spectacle, with the goal of eroding her credibility through innuendo and malicious allegations.”
He said this was “detrimental to the independence of the judiciary upon whom all citizens rely to defend their rights and to check any abuse.”
“(Sereno) will avail herself of appropriate legal remedies, with the hope that the mechanism of our democratic system will afford her a fair, transparent and just opportunity to be heard,” he said.