Sereno asks House to junk impeachment rap for being false, baseless
Supreme Court Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno asked on Monday the House committee on justice to dismiss the impeachment complaint against her for being false and allegations against her were not impeachable acts.
Sereno, through her counsels, filed her 85-page verified answer on the impeachment complaint filed against her by lawyer Lorenzo Gadon.
She cited that under the Constitution, the six grounds for impeachment are culpable violation of the Constitution, treason, bribery, graft and corruption, other high crimes and betrayal of public trust.
"These grounds share a common characteristic: they are severe grounds, of such gravity that they undermine the life and operations of Government. The grounds for impeachment do not include trivial causes. Nor do they include acts done in good faith," she said.
"If the grounds for impeaching the Chief Justice can be trivialized to include any ground which Congress may consider fit, the fate of the Judiciary would be subjected to whims of Congress," Sereno explained.
Gadon alleged Sereno committed culpable violation of the Constitution when she allegedly falsified some Court resolutions, failed to disclose her statement of assets, liabilities and net worth, and manipulated the shortlist of the Judicial and Bar Council.
He also accused Sereno of corruption for having extravagant and lavish lifestyle by ordering a purchase of a P5-million brand new vehicle as her personal car, staying in opulent hotels in the Philippines and abroad, flying with her staff and security on business or first class, and use public funds to flaunt her extravagance by unnecessarily bringing huge entourage of lawyers to her trips abroad.
He alleged that the chief magistrate also committed other high crimes when she obstructed justice by ordering the Muntinlupa City judges not to issue warrants of arrest against Senator Leila de Lima, and embellishing her personal data sheet in her application for the judiciary to overstate her credentials, among others.
According to Gadon, Sereno also betrayed public trust when she sent strongly-worded and misplaced reply to President Rodrigo Duterte in the judges allegedly link to illegal drugs, inviting head-on collision between the presidency and the judiciary; she attacked the martial law declaration while it was then pending before the high court; and usurping the mandate of the Court en banc by arrogating to herself alone the running of the high court and the judiciary, among others.
"Not one of these charges constitutes a valid ground for impeachment. All of them are bereft of any basis in fact and in law," Sereno said.
She said the allegations were "totally false" and while the complaint uses the terms culpable violation of the Constitution, graft and corruption, other high crimes, and betrayal of public trust, "none of the acts it alleges constitutes any ground for impeachment under the Constitution."
The House committe on justice has found the impeachment complaint by Gadon against Sereno as sufficient in form and substance.
Asked if Sereno saw Duterte's hand in the impeachment rap against her, lawyer Jojo Lacanilao, the Chief Justice' s spokesman, said politics was "irrelevant" as he insisted that the complaint was based on "fake news."
Sereno's counsel Alex Poblador said like judges, the lawmakers should decide on the "basis of facts and law and not on the dictates of their political leaders in line with some political agenda."
Sereno, in her answer, hoped that the members of the House of Representatives will exercise their power that they wield by virtue of the Constitution, "to preserve the fundamental law rather than destroy it.
"Surely upon their oaths of office as public officers to uphold the Constitution, if not upon basic norms of decency and fairness, they can appreciate that by impeaching the Chief Justice upon false and flimsy grounds, they will not only inflict injustice on her, they will also undermine the independence of the Judiciary and the fundamental principle of separation of powers to the detriment of the Republic," she said.
"They will usher instability and injustice to the nation. The Committee is therefore respectfully urged to administer true political justice, mindful of their oaths of office and the welfare of the people, and dismiss the instant complaint," Sereno said, citing that the complaint lacks sufficient ground and of probable cause.
In order for Sereno to be impeached, at least one-third of all the members of the House must vote on the Articles of Impeachment. Then it will be transmitted to Senate for trial. At least two-thirds of all the members of the Senate are needed to convict Sereno.
An impeached official shall be removed from office, disqualified to hold any public office , and liable to prosecution, trial, and punishment if the impeachable offense committed also constitutes a felony or crime.
Sereno will be the second chief magistrate to face trial if her impeacent complaint will prosper.
In December 2011, the House impeached late Chief Justice Renato Corona. Celerina Monte/DMS