Sereno unfazed by impeachment threats

MANILA, Philippines – "Ang masarap sa malinis na konsensya, it does not affect me at all (That's what's good about a clean conscience, it does not affect me at all)."

That's what Supreme Court (SC) Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno said when asked on Thursday, August 24, how the impeachment case buildup against her is affecting her.

"Just imagine if I take an inordinate amount of time looking at it, being exasperated by those documents, work will not be done. Just give it the right attention, so you understand that when time comes, you are ready," Sereno said during the "CJ Meets the Press" event in Cebu.

Sereno also said she doesn't feel alluded to by President Rodrigo Duterte when the President said a government official enjoyed first-class travel and accommodations.

Travels and allowances of Sereno and her staff were questioned by SC Associate Justice Teresita Leonardo-de Castro in an internal memorandum sent to her fellow justices.

Groups seeking to impeach Sereno also accuse her of misusing SC funds by buying a P5-million luxury vehicle.

"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.

A budget circular from 2010 allows the Chief Justice to buy a luxury vehicle for purposes of security.

Duterte also said a government official once booked a presidential suite. Asked about it, Sereno said she once used a presidential suite during the meeting of judiciary leaders from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in Boracay in 2015.

"We needed a room for a major photo-taking session of the chief justices of ASEAN, this is in Boracay. They said instead of renting it, we were willing to rent it, it became part of the package, in other words it was offered to us free, there wasn't a line which says you pay this much for this, it's part of the package," Sereno said.

She added: "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."

Asked if she feels things like trips and accomodations have become a "target on her back," Sereno said: "There have been distractions and some may have been deliberate. Despite the distraction, I have to fulfill my duty."

Case buildup

A reporter also asked the Chief Justice if she felt relieved that groups seemed to be focusing on the impeachment case against Commission on Elections (Comelec) Chairman Andres Bautista, instead of hers.

"How can anyone rejoice at the difficulties of another human being?" Sereno replied.

The Chief Justice said she is confident that the case against her would not fly.

"I have done nothing wrong. Nothing can be proven against me that will show the Chief Justice has betrayed her oath of office. I have served the country with faith and diligence. I will never waver from that pledge," she added.

Another reporter asked Sereno if she believes that Malacañang really has no hand in the impeachment case buildup against her. The Chief Justice refused to answer the question and teased the reporter: "You want tsismis (gossip) already. I will not give you the satisfaction." – 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.

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