Indonesia

CJ Sereno asks lawmakers to choose democracy over partisan interest

Lian Buan
On the impeachment complaint filed against her, the Sereno camp says, 'The determinations of the House Committee appear to be inconsistent with its findings and actions in similar proceedings in the past'

'IT DOES NOT AFFECT ME.' Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno addresses the impeachment threats against her during a media forum in Cebu City on August 24, 2017. Photo by Gelo Litonjua/Rappler

MANILA, Philippines – Faced with an impeachment complaint, Supreme Court (SC) Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno on Wednesday, September 13, asked lawmakers to “affirm their commitment to democracy over partisan or parochial interests.”

We remain hopeful that our Congress will decide based on the merits of the case, and affirm their commitment to our democracy over partisan or parochial interests. In the meantime, the Chief Justice continues to discharge her duties with fairness, integrity and humility,” Sereno’s spokesperson lawyer Carlo Cruz said in a statement released on Wednesday.

The House committee on justice on Wednesday voted 30-4 to declare the first impeachment complaint against Sereno sufficient in form and substance.

This is the complaint filed by former Arroyo counsel Larry Gadon accusing the Chief Justice of excess use of court funds for her and her staff’s travel, unilateral decisions in the High Court, and misdeclarations in her Statement of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth (SALN).

We maintain that Chief Justice Sereno has always lived a modest, god-fearing lifestyle. She has followed her oath of office and conducted herself with strict faithfulness to that oath. She has been among the foremost proponents of establishing a culture of modesty and respect for public funds in the Supreme Court,” said the statement.

The Sereno camp maintains that none of Gadon’s allegations are true. They also criticized the complaint for being based on newspaper reports which, in a court proceeding, are regarded as hearsay.

Questionable process

The Sereno camp will also dispute the process with which the justice committee decided on Wednesday.

“We further understand that the determinations of the House Committee appear to be inconsistent with its findings and actions in similar proceedings in the past. These shall be addressed as well in the answer to be filed,” said the statement. (READ: FAST FACTS: How does impeachment work?

Sereno’s camp said the impeachment complaint is just a political spectacle meant to hurt her credibility.

“The complaints against her seem designed to maximize the political spectacle, with the goal of eroding her credibility through innuendo and malicious allegations. This is detrimental to the independence of the judiciary upon whom all citizens rely to defend their rights and to check any abuse,” the statement said. (READ: ‘Do not be afraid to be minority’: Chief Justice Sereno, 5 years on)

First strong statement

This is the first time that the Chief Justice has strongly spoken out against the impeachment complaint against her. She was asked about it during a media forum in Cebu in August, where Sereno simply said her conscience is clean.

“I have always lived a life of modesty. I have been prudent in the use of court resources, all the expenses for judicial reforms, my travels, my security and vehicle requirement are all regular and aboveboard. Public documents, the record will speak for itself, I have not objected to the public release of the same,” Sereno said then.

Sereno also clarified that she had indeed used a presidential suite at an ASEAN Chief Justices summit held in Boracay in 2015. Sereno explained it was offered to them by the host hotel with no added cost. It was used for a photo session for the ASEAN Chief Justices.

“You invite the chief justices of the ASEAN there, photo-taking session happened there, so what do you do, you sleep in the suite, right? That’s it? Does it mean I took a presidential suite? I did not,” Sereno said.

President Rodrigo Duterte had earlier made snide remarks about a government official – not a Cabinet member, he said – who travels “first class” and once used a presidential suite. Sereno said she did not feel alluded to, but clarified just the same. (READ: Ex-govt leaders rally support for Sereno in impeachment case)

Sereno’s camp on Wednesday also said, She will avail herself of appropriate legal remedies, with the hope that the mechanisms of our democratic system will afford her a fair, transparent and just opportunity to be heard.” 

The House committee on justice, voting 5-28, said the 2nd complaint – filed against Sereno by the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption, along with Eligio Mallari of the Vanguard of the Philippine Constitution – was not sufficient in form.Rappler.com

Lian Buan

Lian Buan covers justice and corruption for Rappler. She is interested in decisions, pleadings, audits, contracts, and other documents that establish a trail. If you have leads, email lian.buan@rappler.com or tweet @lianbuan.