House opens impeachment proceedings against Chief Justice Sereno

Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno has tapped veteran lawyer Carlo Cruz as her spokesperson in the impeachment proceedings. Contributed

Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno has tapped veteran lawyer Carlo Cruz as her spokesperson in the impeachment proceedings. Contributed

Only one of two impeachment complaints against Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno hurdled the proceedings at the House Justice Committee on Wednesday.

House Committee on Justice Chairman Congressman Rey Umali, meanwhile, said they will determine on Wednesday if the complaint is sufficient in form or if the complainants have personal knowledge on the issue and if they have evidence to prove it.

Bag-ao and Zarate said the charges against Sereno were based on hearsay and newspaper clippings.

If the complaints have probable cause, the committee will then proceed to discuss it in the plenary.

"None of the allegations rises to an impeachable offence", Sereno said in a statement.

Gadon stressed he has public documents to back up his charges.

"In this particular case we have a private complainant in the person of Attorney Gadon who did his homework".

The House impeachment rules state that complainants must have personal knowledge of the allegations cited in the complaint for it to be sufficient in form. The complaint was endorsed by sixteen lawmakers on September 4.

"Ang importante po sa pag consider nito ay merong recital of facts". Sereno, on the other hand, will be given 10 days to respond Gadon's complaint upon receipt.

Gadon stated that Sereno did not declare in her Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth (SALN) the exorbitant lawyer's fees of United States dollars 745,000 or PHP37 million which she received from the Philippine government.

Gadon's complaint, which was endorsed by 25 House members, accused Sereno of culpable violation of the Constitution, corruption, other high crimes and betrayal of public trust.

The chief justice alleged that the complaint against her was "designed to maximise the political spectacle, with the goal of eroding [her] credibility through innuendo and malicious allegations".

"If she wants to appear, then we most welcome that".

Once the chief justice comments on the complaints, the complainant will present the witnesses and only after can the Congress determine if the allegations have probable cause.

"These would include our concern that numerous allegations in the complaints are unsupported by evidence or rely mainly on hearsay consisting of newspaper clippings", Sereno said.

The impeachment complaint filed by the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC) and the Vanguard of the Philippine Constitution Inc.

Only five lawmakers voted that the case was sufficient in form, while 28 said otherwise.

Umali said his panel would consolidate the two impeachment complaints against Sereno after it had decided on the form and substance of the complaint.

"Talagang improper 'yung verification (It's really improperly verified)". "All matters pending deliberation and determination by the Supreme Court itself".

Gadon said Sereno violated the Constitution when she falsified orders and resolutions of the high court, misdeclared her wealth in her Statement of Assets, Liabilities, and Net worth (SALN), and manipulated the Judicial Bar Council, among others. Cruz added that for the meantime, Sereno continues to discharge her duties with fairness, integrity and humility.

She is also accused of using government funds to stay in luxurious hotels and bring a "huge entourage of lawyers in her supposed official foreign trips".

Finally, the complaint said the Chief Justice betrayed public trust when she "attacked" several pronouncements of President Rodrigo Duterte - including the declaration of martial law in Mindanao - and appointed officials without the approval of the Supreme Court en banc.

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