MANILA, Philippines – Impeach her now, because she is ready for trial.
This is the stance of Supreme Court (SC) Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, who said she looked forward to a "highly probable" trial in the Senate where she can finally explain her side.
“When the other side of the story is finally unveiled, and I’m referring of course, as every would understand, to a highly probable Senate trial, I think everything will be revealed,” Sereno said in a one-on-one Rappler Talk interview on Thursday, February 15.
The Chief Justice said this is not just because of the impeachment hearings of the House committee on justice for the last 5 momths but also because of a campaign against her for the last 7 years, or since she was appointed to the Supreme Court.
“Pitong taon na nila akong binabantayan very closely. Alam na natin siguro kung sino ‘yang mga ‘yan. Walang makita ni bahid ng korapsyon (They have been watching me closely for 7 years. We probably know who they are. They can’t find any taint of corruption),” Sereno said.
Who are ‘they’?
“Palagay ko alam ng taong bayan kung sinu-sino ang interesado na malaman ang pamumuhay ng isang husgado na nagsasabing independent ako (I think the people know who are interested to find out the lifestyle of a justice who says she’s independent)," she said. (READ: Sereno: Justices’ grudges against me their problem, not mine)
If the House committee finds probable cause in the impeachment complaint, this would be put to a vote in plenary, which would decide whether to impeach her and send the complaint to the Senate, sitting as an impeachment court.
Sereno no longer seemed to be interested in defending herself at the House, reiterating that her lawyers have being doing his on her behalf. Committee chairman Reynaldo Umali had earlier threatened to have Sereno arrested if she refused to appear before his panel.
“Abangan 'nyo ‘yan sa Senado. Maganda po ang mangyayari diyan sa Senado tungkol sa isyu na ‘yan (Watch out for it in the Senate. There will be good developments on that issue in the Senate),” Sereno said as she reserved comment on whether or not she filed the missing 17 Statements of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth (SALNs) when she worked as a law professor at the University of the Philippines (UP).
Sereno worked in UP from 1986 to 2006, but the House committee on justice has found only SALNs for the years 1998, 2002, and 2006. She left UP in 2006.
The UP Human Resources Development Office (HRDO) explained that Sereno was mostly on leave from 2001 to 2006.
“Nakita na ng taong bayan ang bahay ko. Alam ng lahat kung paano kami mamuhay. Walang mahanap na hidden wealth, ano ang itatago ko? Ang pinakamalaking kinita namin ay mula sa gobyerno, reported sa BIR, reported sa COA. Kaming mag-asawa wala naman kaming kayang itago na kahit anong kayamanan,” Sereno said.
(The people have seen my house. Everybody knows our lifestyle. They cannot find any hidden wealth, what do I have to hide? My biggest earning was from the government, reported to the Bureau of Internal Revenue, reported to the Commission on Audit. My husband and I do not have any wealth to hide.) (READ: Sereno impachment: Summary of the Chief Justice's earnings, expenses)
Sereno was referring to the P30 million she earned from 2004 to 2009 when she worked as a private lawyer defending the government against the Philippine International Air Terminals Company, Incorporated (Piatco) in a high-stakes arbitration case in Singapore over the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 3.
On February 7, the House justice committee ordered the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) to launch a formal investigation into her tax payment.
She was also accused of warning then Court of Appeals Justice Andres Reyes against paying a courtesy call on President Rodrigo Duterte, allegedly saying it would be the "end of his career" if he does. Reyes was appointed SC Justice in July 2017.
“When we have the right to cross-examine, because this is one-sided right? It’s obviously one-sided....Now that the Senate has trial-type proceedings, both sides will need to be heard and you will get a fuller picture of that, in context and everything else. That will come out very clearly,” Sereno said. – Rappler.com