MANILA, Philippines – The camp of Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno on Monday, October 2, asked the House committee on justice yet again to junk the impeachment complaint against her because of insufficient grounds.
In a reply filed before the committee, Sereno’s legal team said lawyer Larry Gadon, the complainant, “conceded that some of his allegations may not be impeachable offenses.”
Sereno’s legal team, represented by lawyers Anzen Dy and Justin Mendoza, said Gadon admitted the following were not impeachable offenses:
- Alleged misdeclaration of her Statement of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth (SALN)
- Alleged illegal acquisition of her Toyota Land Cruiser
- Business class travel
- Alleged shortlists for the 6 vacancies of the Sandiganbayan
- Mental and psychological exam results
“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 insufficient for impeachment,” said Sereno’s spokespersons in a statement.
Josa Deinla, one of Sereno’s spokespersons, added that hearings should not be venues for “fishing expeditions” in cases.
“Under House Rules, a hearing presupposes that the grounds for impeachment presented by the complainant are already sufficient,” reads the reply.
The Chief Justice’s legal team insisted that government funds should not be used for a “proceeding where the complainant swears based on ‘personal knowledge’ and ‘authentic records,’ but then cites news reports and expresses the need to ‘verify’ his facts ‘later.'”
Gadon wants Sereno impeached for allegedly making decisions that should have required the approval of the SC en banc, for allegedly lying in her SALN, and for alleged inappropriate expenses including the purchase of a luxury vehicle and travel expenses for her staff, among others.
“While clearly intended as a smokescreen to hide the weakness of his case, [Gadon’s] side comments only served to highlight one crucial fact – [Gadon] does not have ‘sufficient grounds for impeachment’ against [Sereno],” reads the Chief Justice’s reply.
The reply was filed in response to Gadon’s own reply to Sereno’s initial answers. It’s a process that must take place before the House justice committee eventually deliberates and votes on whether there is sufficient grounds to pursue the complaint and submit it to the Senate, sitting as an impeachment court.
In a statement to media, Gadon said the reasons laid out by the Sereno team “are all lame excuses in the face of voluminous evidence ready to be presented in the hearing.”
“The spokesman keeps on harping on his own perception of lack of evidence, yet he doesn’t want the hearing conducted and wants the case dismissed outright even prior to the presentation of evidence,” Gadon added. (READ: Gadon challenges Sereno to sign waiver for bank accounts)
Sereno’s lawyers earlier asked the committee to allow the cross-examination of witnesses. While committee chairman Reynaldo Umali said Sereno herself should do the cross-examination, her lawyers insist that rules do not require this. (WATCH: Rappler Talk: Chief Justice Sereno’s impeachment case, and her oppositors in SC) – Rappler.com