MANILA - (UPDATED) Two senators denied Monday that an “oligarch” was planning to bribe the upper house of Congress to acquit Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno in her impeachment case.
Complainant Larry Gadon said over the weekend that he was verifying information that senators would allegedly be promised P200 million each for absolving Sereno.
"Huwag kayo maniwala masyado kay Atty. Gadon... Iyun ngang tini-testify niya doon sa House, puro hearsay. Ito tsismis pa ito -- baka lalong hearsay, triple hearsay," Senator Panfilo Lacson told reporters.
"Wala akong alam na kumakausap sa mga senador. Wala akong nababalitaan."
(Don't believe Atty. Gadon too much. He testified before the House of Representatives based on hearsay. This latest claim is gossip, worse than hearsay; it's triple hearsay. I am not aware of any individual talking with senators.)
The accusation, he added, aims to pressure senators into convicting Sereno if and when she is impeached by congressmen.
Senator Grace Poe echoed Lacson's denial of the alleged bribery plot, saying any bribery attempt will fail because of intense public scrutiny of the case.
"Unang-una, hindi totoo. Sa akin, hindi totoo yun. Walang lumalapit para makipag-usap. At sa tingin ko ang ating mga kababayan ay nagbabantay dito. Makikita ang pagkikilos namin. Hindi magtatagumpay 'yan," she told reporters.
(First of all, that is not true. In my case, no one has approached me to talk. And I think the public is monitoring this and they see our actions so that will not succeed.)
House justice committee chair Reynaldo Umali also said he did not "want to bothered" by Gadon's claims and would rather focus on finding probable cause in the impeachment complaints.
"Baka kuwentong kutsero na naman. Siguro when things get clearer as malinaw, that's the time we look into it. For the meantime, I'd rather focus on the more important matters of establishing charges that need to be established," he told reporters.
(That may be hearsay. Maybe when things get clearer, that will be the time we'll look into it. For the meantime, I'd rather focus on the more important matters of establishing charges that need to be established.)
Sereno is accused of misdeclaring her wealth, having an extravagant lifestyle and bypassing her colleagues in the issuance of court orders.
The House justice panel is set to resume its hearing Tuesday to determine if there is probable cause to pursue the impeachment case against the Chief Justice.
Sereno, who has denied any wrongdoing, refused to attend the hearings.
Umali walked back his initial position backing the arrest of Sereno for not facing the committee herself to answer the allegations against her.
"It's not my stand, it's just my thought. When asked hypothetically whether we can do it, sabi ko nga, (as I've said) it's really the decision of the majority. I cannot decide on it by myself. I cannot even vote except to break a tie," he said.
"Sinasabi ko dito (what I'm saying is) we're performing a constitutional duty. Since this is a constitutional duty nobody is above the constitution they must follow."
- With Zandro Ochona and RG Cruz, ABS-CBN News