What is in the Sereno impeachment complaint?
By Oscar Franklin Tan
Philippine Daily Inquirer
2017-09-13 19:03:25

Respected opposition congressmen Akbayan Rep. Tom Villarin and Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman protest the impeachment complaint by Atty. Lorenzo Gadon against Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno. They argue it cannot be sufficient in form because it is based on newspaper clippings, the same argument used to dismiss the impeachment complaint by Rep. Gary Alejano against Pres. Rodrigo Duterte.

This is not quite right.

First, many of Gadon’s allegations are not even supported by news clippings—these cite no basis at all. Some may be accompanied by documents from the Supreme Court (SC) or other bodies, but these are mostly general regulations and do not on face establish facts incriminating Sereno.

Second and more importantly, two of Gadon’s allegations that Sereno manipulated Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) proceedings are supported by actual SC decisions. To emphasize, Gadon did not present sworn affidavits by SC justices. Instead, he presented extremely serious accusations they wrote into actual SC decisions, which are a million times weightier because they are part of our laws.

Below is a summary of Gadon’s charges cross-referencing the evidence cited, to allow you to judge the complaint for yourself. The full complaints are available at www.facebook.com/OscarFranklinTan.

Tax/SALN evasion

Sereno earned US$745,000 from the government as legal fees for the PIATCO case. This amount was not reported in her SALN or to the Bureau of Internal Revenue. (Source: Ninez Cacho-Olivares opinion column in Daily Tribune)

Further, Sereno “used public funds to finance her extravagant and lavish lifestyle” by having the SC purchase a 2017 Toyota Land Cruiser worth PHP5 million. She ordered its bullet-proofing but “withdrew when news of her impending impeachment broke out.” (Source: none)

She travels with her “coterie of security” and two motorcycle escorts. She insists on flying herself, her security and “her clique of relatively new hired lawyers” on business class for domestic and international travel, and gives herself and her staff travel allowances from SC funds. (Source: none)

She stayed in the Presidential Villa of Shangri-la Boracay during a 2016 conference, allegedly worth PHP200,000 a night. She holds meetings in 5-star hotels and clubs. (Source: none)

 

Blocking Jardeleza

As JBC Chair, Gadon accused, “Sereno persistently manipulates judicial appointments for personal and political reasons” and “transformed the JBC into a mafia-like organization.” A 2015 Manila Times article accused her of pushing her “Umbrella Boy” as Sandiganbayan Justice and Gadon claims (with no source cited) she includes her “neophyte lawyers” in shortlists for Metro Manila regional trial court judges.

She accused now Justice Francis Jardeleza of lack of integrity, violating due process by not giving him a chance to respond to her allegations, and had him removed from the short list by invoking a rule requiring a unanimous JBC vote for allegations on integrity. (Source: SC decision)

Justice Arturo Brion wrote, in his concurring opinion in the SC decision Jardeleza v. Sereno (2014), that: “CJ Sereno manipulated the JBC process to exclude Jardeleza as a nominee.” Brion accused Sereno of “character assassination in the guise of a Supplemental Coment” and timed this comment at a stage of the case when Jardeleza would have no opportunity to refute it. (Source: Justice Brion’s opinion in SC decision)

Jardeleza publicly narrated his “near death experience” with Sereno in his Commencement Address before the UP Law Class of 2015. (Source: Copy of speech)

Manipulating JBC

Further, Sereno arbitrarily had the JBC submit nominees for six Sandiganbayan Justice positions in 2015 in six groups or “clusters.” This forced the President to choose an appointee from the cluster for that vacancy, instead of allowing him to choose from all nominees submitted by the JBC. This allegedly favored nominees from Sereno’s staff, among others, by “clustering” them with weaker candidates.

The SC decision Aguinaldo v. Aquino (2016) invalidated this as “utterly without legal basis and in contravention of the President’s appointing power” and “appears to have been done arbitrarily.” (Source: SC decision)

The Aguinaldo decision also criticized other rules changes: “There appears to be a systematic move by the JBC, under Chief Justice Sereno, to arrogate to itself more power and influence than it is actually granted by the Constitution and this Court, and at the same time, to ease out the Court from any legitimate participation in the noination process for vacancies in the Judiciary, specifically in the Supreme Court.” (Source: SC decision)

Further, Brion’s opinion in the Jardeleza decision accused Sereno of claiming “several Justices” wanted to do away with other justices giving input on SC nominees to the JBC, but, “When subsequently confronted… failed to name anyone.” (Source: Justice Brion’s opinion in SC decision)

 

Blocking de Lima arrest

Sereno had a SC official call the Muntinlupa judges handling de Lima’s 2017 cases and order them not to issue warrants of arrest “considering she is a senator.” (Source: none)

Sereno ordered Court of Appeals Justices to “ignore and defy,” in Gadon’s terms, the House show cause order on the “Ilocos six.” The case could have been elevated to the SC and other justices denied consenting to the order. (Source: Delon Porcalla, Edu Punay, Jess Diaz, Philippine Star)

Sereno gave a strongly worded speech against martial law and the Marcos regime at the 2017 Ateneo de Manila graduation, warning that the “possibility of history repeating itself looms imminent.” She then joined deliberations on and voted against martial law.  (Source: Inquirer copy of speech)

 

‘Falsifying’ orders

Sereno had the SC issue Resolution A.M. No. 12-11-9-SC (Nov. 9, 2012), which ratified her reviving the Regional Court Administration Office in Region 7. Justice Teresita Leonardo-De Castro later protested that a majority of justices had opposed this. (Source: Tetch Torres, Inquirer; Jomar Canlas, Manila Times)

Sereno “deliberately tampered with and altered,” and expanded the scope of, a draft temporary restraining order recommended by De Castro in 2013. This TRO was for the Coalition of Associations of Senior Citizens against the Commission on Elections. (Source: Manila Times)

Delayed pensions

Sereno “shelved” pensions of retired justices and justices and surviving spouses. These include 30 petitions by spouses at least 80 years old, all pending for at least two years. (Source: none)

Sereno has left four senior SC staff positions vacant since 2013, allegedly waiting for her staff to qualify. She also appointed the Chief of the Philippine Mediation Center in 2016 without the SC’s authority. (Source: none)

Delayed Maute transfer

The justices informally agreed to transfer Maute cases to Taguig. Sereno preferred these be heard in Cagayan de Oro. She delayed the transfer by stating she was drafting the transfer resolution for Taguig. “Although dated June 27, 2017, the Resolution was only released on July 20, 2017, after news of her impending impeachment broke out.” (Source: none)

Lack of bidding

Sereno hired a SC ICT consultant for PHP250,000 a month in 2013 without public bidding. (Source: none)

Falsifying CV

Sereno stated in her Personal Data Sheet for the SC that she was a “Deputy Commissioner” of the Commission on Human Rights “when there is no such position.” (Source: none)

She also stated she was “a lecturer at the Hague Academy of International Law” but this is false. (Source: Ninez Cacho-Olivares opinion column in Daily Tribune)

Full impeachment complaints

READ: The Gadon Impeachment Complaint

READ: The dismissed VACC Impeachment Complaint

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React: oscarfranklin.tan@yahoo.com.ph, Twitter @oscarfbtan, facebook.com/OscarFranklinTan.

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