Lawyer claims 2 SC justices willing to testify in Sereno impeach rap

RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Aug 31 2017 08:53 PM

Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Maria Lourdes Sereno holds a presscon on August 25, 2016. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

MANILA- At least 2 Supreme Court magistrates are willing to testify against Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno should the impeachment complaint against her prosper, the lawyer who filed the complaint claimed Thursday.

Lorenzo Gadon, the lawyer seeking Sereno's ouster, said 2 associate justices were willing to speak against the Chief Justice. He, however, did not name them.

"Mayrooong 2 justices ng SC na willing mag-testify. 'Di ko na lang papangalanan ngayon. Mismong kasamahan sa SC ipapa-subpoena ko rin, Clerk of Court, Atty. Te (spokesperson Theodore Te), iba pang may kinalaman sa travels and expenses, and magmo-move ako sa House [of Representatives] na isubpoena sila," he said in a press conference.

Gadon said a third justice may also testify against Sereno.

"Third ko kung sakali babae [na justice], 'yun ay mapipilitan siya if she will respect also the processes of the House," he said.

On Wednesday, 25 lawmakers endorsed Gadon's complaint against Sereno, initiating the impeachment process against the chief magistrate. 

In his complaint, Gadon alleged that Sereno failed to make truthful declarations in her statement of assets, liabilities, and net worth or SALN— the same allegation that got her predecessor, the late former Chief Justice Renato Corona, ousted from office.

Gadon said as many as 42 lawmakers could have endorsed the impeachment complaint had it been filed earlier in the day.

He explained that Sereno's SALN had discrepancies arising from her professional fees when she served as a lawyer in the Philippine International Air Terminals Company Inc. (Piatco) case against the government over the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 3.

The Supreme Court (SC) had granted Gadon's plea for copies of 20 documents relevant to his impeachment bid against Sereno.

"Even though some would say [these] are confidential records of the SC, pati 'yun pinapa-release..." Gadon said.

"Ipo-prove ko na very lavish ang kaniyang (Sereno) lifestyle," he added.

The Chief Justice had previously denied living lavishly, saying she has been "prudent" in the use of the judiciary's resources.

In a statement, Sen. Francis "Kiko" Pangilinan on Thursday said the impeachment complaint against Sereno seemed to be directed at the whole Supreme Court.

"The impeachment complaint filed against Chief Justice Sereno, it appears, isn't simply directed at the Chief Justice. It can very well be directed at the entire High Court," said the opposition lawmaker. 

He said the complaint seemed to send a message to the judiciary that said: ""Submit or else."

Sereno earlier faced criticism from President Rodrigo Duterte's allies, particularly when the House of Representatives and the Court of Appeals bickered over the legislature's detention of six Ilocos Norte officials who had refused to cooperate in an inquiry. 

At the time, Sereno, along with then CA Presiding Justice and now Supreme Court Associate Justice Andres Reyes Jr., urged the House to recall a show cause order it had issued against the appellate court for ordering the provincial officials' release. 

Sereno was appointed to her post in 2012 by then President Benigno Aquino III and is expected to serve until 2030, when she reaches the mandatory retirement age of 70.