Sereno cries harassment, says DOJ going after her aides

ABS-CBN News

Posted at May 19 2018 05:23 PM | Updated as of May 19 2018 08:12 PM

Ousted Supreme Court Chief Justice Lourdes Sereno speaks at a press briefing in Manila Friday, May 11, 2018. Jonathan Cellona, ABS-CBN News

MANILA (UPDATE)—Ousted Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno on Saturday said some members of her staff were summoned by the Department of Justice (DOJ) in what she decried as harassment.

Sereno revealed that two of her lawyers, Ma. Lourdes Oliveros and Michael Ocampo, were asked to explain their work in the judiciary.

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"Dalawang tauhan ko ngayon ang sinubpoena na at pinasasagot ng Department of Justice para ipaliwanag ang ginawa nila nu'ng sila ay nasa hudikatura," she told DZMM in an interview.

(Two of my aides have been subpoenaed by the Department of Justice to explain their work while they were in the judiciary.)

Ocampo and Oliveros have been charged by Sereno critic and lawyer Lorenzo Gadon of graft at the justice department.

The two have filed their counter affidavits earlier this month.

The charges stem from the alleged illegal hiring by Sereno of an information technology (IT) consultant Helen Perez-Macasaet, also a respondent in the case.

The complaint pointed out that only two of Macasaet’s eight contracts of service with the high court passed through the Bids and Awards Committee (BAC), while the rest was approved by Sereno. 

This “splitting” of the contracts was intended “to evade competitive bidding,” in violation of Republic Act No. 9184, also known as the Government Procurement Reform Act. 

“[T]he mode of procurement utilized in the hiring of respondent Perez-Macasaet was negotiated procurement (direct negotiation) instead of public bidding…” the complaint read. 

The allegedly questionable hiring of Macasaet was raised in the impeachment case lodged by Gadon against Sereno.

Sereno added that she said she received information that another lawyer from her staff, Joy Fabian, will be charged as well.

"Sabi nila kahit daw na wala na ako sa hudikatura eh tuloy-tuloy daw ako gigipitin sa mga kaso eh," she said.

(They said that even though I am out of the judiciary, they will still harass me with cases.)

Sereno said she also received reports that cases against her aides would be filed at the Ombudsman.

"Panggigipit po sa lahat ng side. Malinaw na panggigipit talaga," she added.

(This is harassment from all sides. This is a clear form of harassment.)

Besides her aides, Sereno said her tax filings for the year 2004 were also being audited. 

NOT HARASSMENT

Justice Chief Menardo Guevarra meanwhile denied that his department's issuance of subpoenas is a form of harassment and explained that it is part of procedure.

"Our investigating prosecutors will issue subpoenas to any and all respondents as a matter of procedure. Certainly I will not consider this as an act of political harassment but rather as part of procedural due process, with due respect to the opinion of CJ Sereno," he said in a message to ABS-CBN News.

"The DOJ will not be used to advance any political purpose," he added.

The former top magistrate said the supposed harassment came after her removal from the Supreme Court last week.

In an unprecedented decision last May 11, the Supreme Court nullified Sereno's appointment for failure to fully disclose her wealth when she applied for the top post in 2012.

Sereno had said that she would appeal the decision.

Sereno also accused the executive and legislative departments of conspiring to harass her.

"Malinaw po sa akin talaga na ang kongreso at ehekutibo ay may usapan tungkol dito," she said.

"Malinaw ho, ano talaga ang gusto, hindi lang ako tanggalin. Gusto talaga ipakita ang pwersa, ang kanilang kapangyarihan. Pang-aabuso ho talaga," she added.

(It is clear to me that Congress and the Executive Department have an agreement regarding this. It is clear that they don't just want to remove me, they want to show their force and power. It is pure abuse.)

Malacañang on Friday accused Sereno of grandstanding after she said that President Rodrigo Duterte should resign after he vowed to step down if it will be proven he had a hand in her ouster.

Duterte has denied any involvement in Sereno’s removal from office but had earlier declared himself as her "enemy."

-with a report from Ina Reformina, ABS-CBN News