Sereno impeachment case: Publicity first, documents later

The groups seeking to impeach Supreme Court (SC) Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno made media appearances on the impeachment complaint they intend to file before the House of Representatives, but they are moving only now to get verified documents to support their case.

Lawyer Manny Luna of the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC) sent to reporters on Friday, August 4, a copy of their letter to the SC asking for copies of orders and resolutions which will supplement their impeachment complaint. The letter is dated August 4, or two days after the VACC and the Vanguard of the Philippine Constitution filed an unverified complaint before the House Secretary General.

The two groups' complaint filed on August 2 is an unverified complaint because it does not have the required endorsement of a lawmaker. House Secretary General Cesar Pareja told Rappler "there is no valid complaint officially filed" before his office.

Asked if the VACC can still revise their complaint should they get supplemental documents and then re-file it, Pareja said yes.

"What they submitted this week was simply considered as an ordinary communication which we will just file. To be a valid complaint, the same must be verified and upon a resolution of endorsement by any member of the House," Pareja said in a text message to Rappler.

The documents requested by VACC are en banc resolutions recalling Sereno's earlier resolutions, and memoranda from magistrates such as Justice Teresita Leonardo de Castro which question Sereno's actions.

The VACC's impeachment case against Sereno is mainly about the Chief Justice's supposed unilateral actions which disregard the collegial body of the court.

The grounds cited in their unverified complaint filed Wednesday rely largely on De Castro's memorandum which lumps all of the Justice's recent issues against Sereno. They include allegedly unauthorized travel allowances given to her staff, appointment of the Philippine Mediation Center head, and the still unfilled vacancies in the High Court. (READ: FAST FACTS: How does impeachment work?)

Larry Gadon complaint

Another impeachment case is that of Larry Gadon, the former lawyer of then president Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. Gadon was supposed to file his complaint on the same day as the VACC on Wednesday, but it did not push through. Gadon instead went to the offices of some lawmakers to seek their endorsement.

The next day, House Majority Leader Ilocos Norte Representative Rodolfo Fariñas said he advised Gadon to get authentic documents first.

“There are attachments to his complaint that are newspaper reports, so I advised him to get certified true copies of the SC orders or circulars that he is alleging to be parts of his causes of action,” Fariñas said.

One of Gadon's grounds against Sereno is the Chief Justice's purchase of a P5-million Toyota Land Cruiser using SC funds. 

Gadon also accuses Sereno of non-declaration of millions worth of earnings derived from a won case that involved an airport contract dispute against Philippine International Air Terminals Co Inc (Piatco).

On Friday, Gadon said in a media forum that he has obtained copies of letters from retired judges which will supplement another ground in his complaint: that Sereno sat on requests for retirement benefits.

"Ang latest na nakuha ko ay dated May 31, 2017 na nagmamakaawa pa rin siya..nangungutang at nanghihingi na lang siya sa kanyang mga kaibigan at mga kamag-anak para lang makapambili ng gamot, pero hindi niya (Sereno) pa rin ito nare-release," Gadon said.

(The latest that I got is a letter dated May 31, 2017 where a judge is begging and already borrowing money from friends and relatives to buy medicine, but Sereno still has not released it.)

The House Justice Committee junked the impeachment complaint against President Rodrigo Duterte due to what they claimed was the lack of personal knowledge of the complainant, Magdalo Representative Gary Alejano. (READ: It takes only a day to kill an impeachment complaint vs Duterte)

Fariñas said they will subject to "the same scrutiny" the Sereno impeachment case as they did Duterte's. – with Bea Cupin/

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 or tweet @lianbuan.