MANILA - The camp of Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno on Friday said the testimonies of her colleagues in the Supreme Court do not constitute impeachable offenses as they are merely complaints or disagreements with the top magistrate.
Lawyer Jojo Lacanilao said some of the justices who appeared before the House justice panel are out to destroy Sereno after she was appointed Chief Justice at age 52.
"This is a problem on the independence of the Supreme Court because they have gone to Congress and lay themselves out and in fact they did not appear well," Lacanilao, who represents Sereno in the impeachment complaint, said in an ANC interview.
"The mystique, the mystery of being a Supreme Court justice is gone because some of these justices have already come out and showed that they’re weak and they have personal grudges and they cannot overcome these issues with the Chief Justice."
He added that whatever the justices would say against the Chief Justice "will have no moment in terms of the impeachment case."
"Most of the things that they have said are either disagreements with the Chief Justice on how the rules of the Supreme Court will be interpreted; some of them have complaints about the management, maybe leadership style; some of them were really worried and not happy when she was appointed ahead of them as Chief Justice because she was the most junior that was appointed—over and above many senior justices," he said.
"All of these are not impeachable offenses...It’s an internal issue and let the Supreme Court handle it. In fact, many of these issues are being handled and have been handled by the Supreme Court."
Supreme Court Associate Justices Diosdado Peralta, Lucas Bersamin, and Samuel Martires attended Monday's hearing called by the House Committee on Justice seeking to determine probable cause in relation to the verified complaint for impeachment against Sereno.
Associate Justices Teresita Leonardo-De Castro, Francis Jardeleza, and Noel Tijam have earlier testified at the House hearings.
Lorenzo Gadon is accusing Sereno of culpable violation of the Constitution, corruption, other high crimes and betrayal of public trust.
He cited the Chief Justice's alleged misdeclaration of wealth and slow action on cases, such as the transfer of Maute trial and the release of suvivorship benefits to the families of deceased members of the judiciary.
Lacanilao said their camp is not contacting any other Supreme Court justice to come to Sereno's defense.
Associate Justice Antonio Carpio earlier declined the House invitation to testify against Sereno, saying he has no personal knowledge on the accusations against the Chief Justice.
"This is, for the Chief Justice, a politicized process. She’s going through this, respecting the process of impeachment. If others are manipulating it, using it for their own political purposes, that’s not for her," said Lacanilao.
Sereno will not step down from her position despite the impeachment hearings, unlike former Commission on Elections Chairman Andres Bautista, who was "pressured to resign," said Lacanilao.
"That’s not going to happen with Chief Justice. She will be there and we will ask Congress to prove any complaint that you’d have and let’s face in the Senate. We know that we have a strong case."