Sereno not quitting despite Duterte dare

RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Oct 02 2017 03:33 PM | Updated as of Oct 02 2017 05:39 PM

(UPDATED) Supreme Court Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno will not resign.

This was the response of one of her impeachment spokespersons, Josa Deinla, when asked by media. 

"The Chief Justice will not resign because she has done nothing unlawful illegal and impeachable. Ang gusto niya lang mangyari makapag patuloy siya sa paggampan sa kaniyang mga tungkulin bilang punong mahistrado ng Korte Suprema," he said.

Deinla addressed media as the impeachment defense team filed a verified rejoinder to the response of Lorenzo Gadon to Sereno’s Verified Answer to Gadon’s impeachment complaint.

Sereno defense lawyer Justin Mendoza said Gadon already admitted in his last pleading that some of his allegations are without evidence or are not impeachable offenses.

“Just by looking at the pleadings filed by the parties, the complaint, the answer, and now the rejoinder, we can already see that the grounds raised in the pleadings are not sufficient for impeachment. As we mentioned a while ago, Atty. Gadon himself has already admitted certain charges are not impeachable. For example with respect to the SALN. His exact words this charge may not be an impeachable offense with respect to the purchase of the Land Cruiser," Mendoza said.

Deinla accused Gadon of engaging in a fishing expedition by filing an impeachment complaint even without evidence. 

"Si complainant really intends to engage in fishing expedition at sa aming palagay 'di dapat pinapayagan 'yung ganitong klasong pagtrato sa pagdinig sa House committee dahil gagamitin diyan pondo ng taumbayan. Galing 'yan sa buwis ng mamamayan. Sila may karapatan na malaman 'yung katotohanan 'di lang dapat ganun babaliin bababaluktutin yung mismong rules ng Committee on Justice," he said.

Insisting on Sereno’s right to confront her accusers and right to counsel, the lawyers hope they will be allowed to question witnesses in case the House Committee on Justice proceeds to hear the case instead of dismissing the complaint outright.

"Kung sakaling magdesisyon ng HCOJ (House Committee on Justice) na ipagpatuloy ang pagdinig patuloy pa rin ang kaniyang panawagan na sana igalang yung kanilang mismong alituntunin, House rules on impeachment. Kasama na dito 'yung paggalang sa kaniyang karapatan na makumpronta ang testigo sa kaniya at kaniyang karapatan sa abugado right to cross examine the witnesses or confront the witnesses against her and the right to counsel, Deinla said.

"Well as of now we are confident that we have legal basis in the House rules to cross examine the witnesses. We are hopeful that the HCOJ will follow their own rules. In the event that those rights are denied, we will certainly avail of the remedies that are available to us. We will discuss the same with the CJ," Mendoza added.

Asked if they are eyeing to bring the case to the High Court if Sereno is denied her rights, Mendoza said: "No, we have not yet gone that far as I said."

NO LAWYERS ALLOWED FOR SERENO? 

Justice Committee chairman Rep. Reynaldo Umali earlier said Sereno’s right to confront her accusers cannot be extended to her lawyers. He said the rules of the House bar lawyers from talking in proceedings so the right to confront accusers is exclusive to Sereno. 

"Anyway seasoned lawyer naman, Chief Justice pa siya, then probably we may allow her herself to conduct the cross examination in like manner we will allow, para fair sa lahat," he said.

On the other hand, he said Gadon or any of the 25 lawmakers who endorsed the Gadon complaint may question Sereno.

Asked about Umali’s statement, Deinla said: "Ang kumento namin diyan saan ba galing yung ganung ginigiit ni Rep. Umali. Wala naman iyan sa rules wala naman sinasabi sa rules na 'di pwede, walang abogado na papayagan para sa respondent."

"Tandaan natin - ang impeachment proceedings this is akin to a criminal prosecution. Para siyang nasasakdal sa kriminal na kaso kung saan kinakailangan 'yung karapatan bilang akusado ay dapat pangalagaan at wala ni sinumang may karapatang ipagkait sa kaniyang karapatan sa abogado."

The lawyer noted that the rules disallowing non-members from speaking before congressional committees "pertains to a different kind of hearing (such as) legislative inquiries.”

Sereno’s rejoinder outlined how Gadon supposedly failed to substantiate the allegations in his complaint.

According to the rejoinder, "Gadon conceded that the following allegations may not be impeachable: alleged misdeclaration of SALN, Alleged illegal acquisition of the Toyota Land Cruiser, her business class travels, alleged shortliests for vacancies in the Sandiganbayan and her mental and psychological evaluation results."

The rejoinder also said that "other claims are made without any evidence while some are presented with evidence that contradicts Gadon’s own allegations and supports the Chief Justice's defense. The remaining arguments are otherwise insufficieny for impeachment. Gadons reply also read that some of his allegations will be verified later at evidentiary hearings. To this the rejoinder responded: Under the House rules, a hearing presupposes that the grounds for impeachment presented by the complainant are already sufficient. a hearing is not the means to achieve that sufficiency.”

Aside from the allegations that Gadon conceded, the rejoinder also identified those that Gadon failed to prove with evidence; "Rendering his signed verification perjurious: these charges are: Sereno’s allegedly illegal assignment of Associate Justice Noel Tijam, her alleged order not to issue warrant of arrest against Senator Leila de Lima, her alleged instruction to the presiding justice and associate justices of the Court of Appeals not to comply with the processes of the House of Representatives and her prevention of the CA justices to do a courtesy call on President Rodrigo Roa Duterte."

GADON WANTS SERENO TO SIGN WAIVER

Gadon, for his part, said he has yet to read Sereno's rejoinder.

"I haven't read the Rejoinder of Sereno, but I challenge her to sign a bank waiver," he said.

"I challenge CJ Sereno to issue an unequivocal, straightforward waiver to all banks to fully disclose her bank accounts including all transactions, entries of deposits and withdrawals, dates of entries and transactions, and current balances. The general waiver stated in the SALN giving authority to the opening of financial records does not cover all bank accounts. Waiver on bank accounts should be specific."

For Gadon, it is absurd to ask for a dismissal of the case.

"The statement of the spokesman are all lame excuses in the face of voluminous evidences ready to be presented in the hearing. The spokesman keeps on harping on his own perception of lack of evidence, yet he doesnt want the hearing conducted and wants the case dismissed outright even prior to the presentation of evidence," he said.

"In totality, their defense is anchored on the plea that - dismiss the case right away. 'Wag na mag hearing, 'wag na mag present evidence. Certainly, being veteran lawyers themselves, they know it doesn't work that way. Dismiss agad 'wag na mag-hearing? Just because it is the CJ who is the subject of the case, it should be dismissed outright following their arguments. This is absurd. Why are they afraid of the trial?” 

Duterte on Sunday accused Sereno of failing to declare a P30-million professional fee in her statement of assets, liabilities, and net worth. He also accused Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales of administering "selective justice" in prioritizing the corruption investigation against him. 

The President challenged both Sereno and Morales to resign with him and "open all our books." -- With Robert Mano, ABS-CBN News