The president of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines has found lacking the impeachment complaint against Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, likening the complainant Atty. Lorenzo Gadon to a "summary writer."
"Initially we wanted to give the benefit of the doubt to Atty. Gadon - he might really have something there. But as it is turning out now, the complaint appears to be just a summary of what has already been publicized either through newspaper reports or through blind items or rumors possibly (about) the inner workings of the Supreme Court," IBP president Atty. Abdiel Dan Elijah Fajardo told ANC's Talkback on Monday.
"Essentially if you are just, shall we say, a summary writer; you really do not have personal knowledge as to the workings or as to the antecedents leading to the decisions of the Supreme Court in those cases. You're not even a party, you're not a counsel to those proceedings," he added.
Fajardo's statements adds to the chorus of observations from critics who say the complaint against Sereno does not hold water.
Sereno's lawyers have said the complaint is only backed by hearsay allegations and unverified documents, and that Gadon may be using the House for what appears to be a "fishing expedition" to impeach the chief magistrate.
House justice committee chair Rep. Rey Umali, meanwhile, has said it is too early to draw conclusions.
Umali, in a press statement by the House committee on justice Monday, said the panel is simply fulfilling its constitutional mandate in relation to determining probable cause in impeachment proceedings.
“To the complainant and respondent in this impeachment complaint, including their respective lawyers, the Chair strongly enjoins you to refrain from misleading the public on the nature of these impeachment proceedings, the mandate of this committee and the constitutionally guaranteed rights in relation to these proceedings,” he said.
Lawmakers, however, scolded Gadon on Monday for changing his statements, particularly on alleging that a reporter was his source. The reporter has denied Gadon's claim.
Gadon later claimed again that he "cannot really remember" if the reporter was his alleged source.
The IBP head, meanwhile, warned against dangling the threat of impeachment too often, saying it might affect the independence required of the country's top magistrate.
"If the highest member of the judiciary no less than the Chief Justice is threatened with impeachment in each decision, in each administrative matter she presides over, there might creep into -- eh tao lang naman, the Chief Justice is just a human being -- that fear that she might displease the political powers and that therefore cannot comply with her constitutional duty to decide cases based on the evidence and the law," Fajardo said.
For this, Fajardo says citizens should let their congressmen know if they feel the impeachment proceedings against Sereno should be based solely on the evidence.
"So if the congressman heeds his conscience and listens to his constituents, then perhaps all those unmeritorious impeachment complaints will be screened and will not see the light of day in the Senate impeachment court," he said.
The House justice committee has set marathon hearings from November 27 to 29 and from December 4 to 6 so they can put the impeachment to a vote on the plenary on December 13.
This is slower than how President Joseph Estrada and former Chief Justice Reynato Corona were impeached in 2000 and 2011 respectively, when their impeachment complaints had the required signatures of one-third of the House for their impeachment complaints to be transmitted straight to the Senate for trial.
"If we are to learn a lesson from past impeachments, it is that in this case, the public will have a chance to see whether the complaint is meritorious or just an empty recitation of meaningless facts," Fajardo said.