MANILA (UPDATED) - Anti-crime watchdogs and a lawyer on Wednesday filed impeachment complaints against Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno for supposed culpable violation of the Constitution, betrayal of public trust, corruption, other high crimes, and betrayal of public trust.
In their complaint filed before the House of Representatives, the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC) and Vanguard of the Philippine Constitution (VCPI) accused Sereno of releasing administrative orders without the approval of the Supreme Court en banc.
These include the creation of a new judiciary decentralized office and the re-opening of the Regional Court Administrative Office in Western Visayas, according to the complaint.
They also accused 57-year-old Sereno of approving the allegedly irregular appointment of several officials, and using SC funds for the travel allowances of her staff.
Sereno also failed to fill the year-long vacancies for a deputy clerk of court, a chief attorney and 2 assistant court administrators, the complainants said.
The Chief Justice has not received a copy of the complaint, Supreme Court spokesman Theodore Te said.
The raps against Sereno however will not be considered as a verified impeachment complaint pending the endorsement of a congressman, according to the House Secretary General.
Sereno's predecessor, Renato Corona, was impeached and ousted in 2012 on allegations he misdeclared his wealth.
Lawyer Lorenzo Gadon, the other complainant, meanwhile said he met with congressmen he refused to name and gave them copies of his complaint and the attached documentary evidence.
Pressed for more details, Gadon said, “Marami-rami rin sila nag-closed door meeting kami, mga 5 sila."
"Sinabi lang sa akin kung matatapos ang pirmahan, baka next week," he said. "Kanina kasi, di nila maharap. May hearing kanina tungkol doon kay (BIR) Commissioner (Nicanor) Faeldon, hindi agad nila naharap, hindi nila agad nakita.”
Gadon claimed that the congressmen he met are looking at having the signatures of some 10 to 20 congressmen when it is filed.
He also said he met with House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez earlier but declined to give details. Alvarez previously expressed interest in impeaching Sereno.
VACC chair Dante Jimenez, on the other hand, said lawmakers should look at the merits of their complaint. "Let us give them the benefit of the doubt. Whether they endorse it or not, I don't care but of course look at it on the merits.”
Former Commission on Human Rights Commissioner Eligio Mallari, one of the co-complainants of VACC, said he expects "an endorsement from a minimum of 1/3 of the House of Representatives."
Their legal counsel, Manuelito Luna, said they have enough proof to substantiate their allegations.
The Gadon complaint alleges that Sereno failed to truthfully disclose her statement of assets, liabilities, and net worth or SALN—the same allegation that got Corona ousted from office.
He also accused Sereno of alleged falsification of Supreme Court documents; delayed action on the petitions for retirement benefits of justices, judges and the surviving spouses of deceased justices and judges; alleged manipulation and delay in a resolution on the request of the Secretary of Justice to transfer the Maute cases outside of Mindanao; alleged manipulation of the shortlist of the Judicial and Bar Council; among others.
Gadon also accused Sereno of corruption over alleged use of public funds by ordering the purchase of a new vehicle amounting to more than P5 million; alleged use of public funds to stay in hotels when attending local and foreign conferences; flying on business or first class with her staff and security; and bringing a huge entourage of lawyers in her official foreign trips.
Among the incidents he cited for other high crimes include alleged obstruction of justice by ordering Muntinlupa judges not to issue warrants of arrest against Senator Leila M. De Lima; alleged failure to report her attorney’s fees and pay the appropriate taxes; alleged embellishment of her personal data sheet. - with reports from Robert Mano and RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News