Gadon files criminal case vs Sereno at DOJ

Ina Reformina, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Jan 26 2018 05:00 PM | Updated as of Jan 26 2018 08:49 PM

Sereno camp: Gadon's move 'desperate' 

MANILA (UPDATE) - Lawyer Lorenzo Gadon on Friday filed a separate complaint before the Department of Justice (DOJ) against Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno for allegedly failing to file her Statements of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth (SALN) for 17 years during her stint at the University of the Philippines (UP) College of Law.

Gadon, whose impeachment complaint against Sereno is undergoing committee hearings at the House of Representatives, accused the chief magistrate of violating Republic Act No. 6713, also known as An Act Establishing A Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees, and RA No. 3019 or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act. 

Based on the complaint, Sereno, who served as professor at the UP College of Law from 1986 to 2006, only had 3 SALNs filed on record- for 1998, 2002 and 2006- prior to her appointment to the Supreme Court (SC) in 2012.

The complaint cited how the code of conduct for public officials required the filing of the SALN, and that violation of such provision "shall be sufficient cause for the removal or dismissal of a public official or employee with the corresponding disqualification to hold public office."

The anti-graft law, meanwhile, "requires every public officer to prepare and file a true and detailed sworn statement of assets and liabilities, including a statement of the amounts and sources of income, the amounts of personal and family expenses, and the amount of income taxes paid,” it added. 

While Sereno may only be removed through impeachment, Gadon said he filed the complaint to beat the prescriptive period in filing cases on the alleged offenses. 

Gadon attached certifications from the UP, the Office of the Ombudsman, and the SC’s Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) to prove Sereno did not comply with the mandatory filing of SALNs. 

Based on UP’s certification, it only has on record Sereno’s 2002 SALN, while the Ombudsman certified it only has her 1998 SALN. The JBC, for its part, certified that upon her application for SC Associate Justice, she only submitted her 2006 SALN.

The JBC further certified that upon her application for Chief Justice, Sereno submitted only 3 SALNs covering 2009, 2010, and 2011. At the time, the JBC, which is mandated to screen applicants to posts in the judiciary and the Ombudsman and Deputy Ombudsmen posts, already made mandatory the submission of SALNs for at least a 10-year period as an offshoot of the impeachment of Chief Justice Renato Corona.

Corona was removed from office in 2012 for making incomplete declarations in his SALN. 

“Dito makikita 'yung kaniyang repeated acts na talagang hindi siya nagsa-submit ng SALN. Ano ba naman na Chief Justice ito na ang kaniyang pagsunod sa batas ay hindi niya ginagawa nung hindi pa siya miyembro ng Korte Suprema?," Gadon told reporters. 

“Ito’y nagpapakita lamang na hindi siya karapat-dapat na umupo bilang Chief Justice sapagkat napakarami niyang violations na ginawa even before she was appointed to the [SC],” Gadon said.

Lawyer Josa Deinla, one of Sereno's spokespersons, called Gadon's move "desperate."

"Indeed desperate times call for desperate measures. Gadon knows that he still has nothing on the Chief Justice after all the undeserved attention that his complaint has been given. We are confident that he will fall flat doing this latest stunt," Deinla said in a statement.

Under an existing memorandum of agreement, the Department of Justice (DOJ) may accept and act on complaints involving offenses cognizable by the Sandiganbayan, which handles cases against public officials. 

The DOJ has repeatedly maintained that while impeachable officers may only be removed through impeachment, nothing bars the filing of complaints and subsequent investigation against said officers.

It remains to be seen what the DOJ’s next action will be should it find probable cause against Sereno, especially if during such time she would still be the sitting Chief Justice.

In his impeachment complaint, Gadon cited Sereno's alleged incomplete declaration in her 2010 SALN, citing the P30-million fee she received as government counsel in arbitration proceedings against the Philippine International Air Terminals Co. Inc. (Piatco), builder of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Terminal 3. 

It was among several charges in Gadon's complaint, which accused the chief magistrate of committing culpable violation of the Constitution, betrayal of public trust, corruption, and other high crimes for alleged falsification of High Court documents, delayed court action, alleged use of judiciary funds for a P5-million vehicle, and luxury travels, among others. 

Sereno has denied the charges, saying the accusations against her were "built on lies."