MANILA, Philippines – Complainant and lawyer Larry Gadon challenged Supreme Court (SC) Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno to sign a bank waiver amid accusations of non-disclosure of assets and wealth.
“If CJ Sereno will not resign, I challenge her to issue a bank waiver on secrecy of deposits. This is an issue which they refuse and fail to address,” Gadon said on Thursday, October 5, after the House committee on justice voted 25-2 to declare the impeachment complaint as having sufficient grounds.
Gadon accused Sereno of not disclosing all her earnings from the time she was a lawyer for the government in its case against Philippine International Air Terminals Co. Inc. (Piatco) in her Statement of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth (SALN). Gadon said she earned P37 million, but Sereno’s spokespersons said it amounted to only P30 million.
Sereno’s spokesperson lawyer Jojo Lacanilao told Rappler in a text message that a bank waiver is not necessary because Gadon never alleged that the chief justice acquired ill-gotten wealth.
“Therefore, the call to bank waiver is spurious and is intended to gain media mileage for Atty Gadon. CJ will not dignify the call with an answer,” Lacanilao said.
Lacanilao added: “The call for her to sign a bank waiver is a red herring to distract from the fact that the complaint has no evidence to back it up.”
‘CJ will not resign’
Pressed for an answer whether Sereno is willing to sign a waiver, another one of her spokespersons lawyer Josa Deinla said she has already authorized the government to look into her wealth.
“The CJ has executed waiver when she signed the SALN,” Deinla said.
Deinla was referring to a provision at the bottom of the Statement of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth (SALN) forms which authorizes the Office of the Ombudsman “to obtain and secure from all appropriate government agencies, including the Bureau of Internal Revenue, such documents that may show my assets, liabilities, net worth, business interests and financial connections.” (READ: Will SALN pin down Sereno? ‘A non-issue’ says her spokesperson)
But Gadon is unsatisfied. “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,” he said.
Sereno’s lawyers earlier explained that she earned the P30 million in a span of 5 years from 2004 to 2009. What remained of her earnings when she was appointed to the SC in 2010 was declared in her SALN, her lawyers said.
The properties and assets she acquired through that money were likewise declared, her lawyers added.
“I strongly suggest that CJ Sereno resign before the trial begins, to preserve her dignity and avoid the embarrassment and humiliation of the trial,” Gadon said.
But once again, Sereno’s spokespersons insisted the Chief Justice will not resign.
“The CJ will not resign to preserve the independence of the judiciary. She has not done any offense,” Deinla said.
Gadon is boosted by another overwhelming vote at the lower chamber. When the House committee on justice voted initially to declare his complaint sufficient in form and substance, they voted 30-4.
Gadon’s complaint was endorsed by 25 lawmakers.
“This development has demonstrated the factthat the case is strong and that the arguments of the Sereno camp are weak,” Gadon said. (READ: Does Sereno have SC’s support? Spokesman downplays narrative)
On Thursday, House committe on justice chairman Reynaldo Umali said they might call on witnesses in the next hearing to clarify some issues.
Sereno’s camp sent a 2nd letter to the committee on Wednesday asking that their lawyers be allowed to cross-examine the witnesses.
The commitee has yet to resolve Sereno camp’s request but Umali had earlier said only the Chief Justice is allowed to cross-examine the witnesses, and not her lawyers.
The next step is for the House of Representatives to decide whether there is probable cause. If so, one-third of the House needs to vote to approve the Articles of Impeachment before this could be transmitted to the Senate that will sit as an impeachment court. – Rappler.com