SC approves release of documents on Sereno's trips, accommodations

MANILA, Philippines – The Supreme Court (SC) en banc approved the release of documents which a lawyer plans to use for his impeachment complaint against Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno.

The SC signed the resolution on August 15, a copy of which was provided to Rappler on Thursday, August 24, by lawyer Larry Gadon, the one who requested for the documents. Gadon and the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC) – whose request for documents was earlier approved as well – are the ones seeking Sereno's impeachment.

Among the documents approved for release to Gadon is the "list of official domestic and foreign travels of Sereno from 2012-present, including a list of those who accompanied her."

The list would also detail her expenses "including airfare, accommodations, all kinds of allowances, including those shouldered by development partners."

Gadon got the documents from the SC on Thursday and said he went straight to the House of Representatives, but lawmakers were no longer in their offices. Gadon plans to return next week.

"Many of them are already expecting me to come so they can endorse the impeachment of CJ Sereno," he said.

'Aboveboard'

Sereno said in a media event in Cebu on Thursday that all her travels are aboveboard.

"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.

President Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday, August 23, criticized an unnamed official – not a Cabinet member – who allegedly enjoys first-class travel and accommodations.

"May isang opisyal tayo dito sa gobyerno, na tiningnan namin 'yung travel – hindi sa departamento, not the executive department – na kung magsakay ng eroplano, mag-abroad, first-class. Tapos ang mga hotel niya, 'yung mga suite. May isang presidential suite pa ang kinuha," Duterte said.

(There is one government official whose travels we looked into, not from a department, not from the executive branch. The official enjoys first-class flights during overseas trips and stays in hotel suites. The official even got a presidential suite.)

On Thursday, Sereno said she doesn't feel alluded to by the President.

But the Chief Justice did say she was once billeted in a presidential suite during a meeting of judicial leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in Boracay in 2015.

Sereno said the presidential suite was initially just used for a "photo-taking" session of ASEAN chief justices, but the suite was added to their package for free.

"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."

Other documents

The SC will also release to Gadon the Statements of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth (SALNs) of Sereno from 2010 to 2017.

One of Gadon's grounds for impeachment is that Sereno allegedly did not declare millions of pesos worth of earnings as a private lawyer when she won an arbitration case for the government in 2003.

"Chief Justice Sereno communicated in writing to other members of the court that she had no objection to granting the request of Atty Gadon," the SC resolution said.

The other documents are resolutions and letters that pertain to Sereno's supposed unilateral acts inside the SC – actions she made without the approval of the en banc or the full court.

Sereno said on Thursday that she is confident nothing can be proven against her.

"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)." – 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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