MANILA— At least 16 lawmakers in the House of Representatives have endorsed the impeachment complaint lodged against Supreme Court Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno by the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC) and the Vanguard of the Philippine Constitution a month after its initial filing.
VACC President Dante Jimenez led the filing of the verified impeachment complaint against Sereno before the Office of the Secretary General on Monday night.
Among the endorsers were Representatives Mauyag Papandayan Jr., Eric Pineda, Virgilio Lacson, Ben Evardone, Jerry Trenas, Raul Tupas, as well as Deputy Speakers Fredenil Castro and Sharon Garin.
The complainants sought the removal of Sereno on the grounds of culpable violation of the Constitution and betrayal of public trust.
Jimenez noted in the complaint that Sereno culpably violated the Constitution for the following reasons:
* issuing an administrative order creating the new Judiciary Decentralized Office (JDO) and re-opening the Regional Administration Office (RCAO) in Western Visayas in the absence of an authority from the Court en banc;
* violating the constitutional provision that appointive government officials shall not hold another public post unless provided for by law, in appointing as her staff head Atty. Solomon Lumba, who was still a faculty member of the University of the Philippines (UP) College of Law at the time of his appointment;
* appointing Atty. Brenda Jay Mendoza as Philippine Mediation Center office chief by a mere memorandum which was not referred to the court en banc for its consideration; and
* granting to members of her staff travel allowances for foreign travel charged to the Supreme Court funds without court en banc approval.
Sereno also betrayed public trust through “inexcusable negligence”, for sitting on the applications for the vacant posts in the Supreme Court.
Last week, lawyer Larry Gadon filed another impeachment complaint against Sereno that was endorsed by 25 House members, including four Deputy Speakers.
In his complaint, Gadon accused Sereno of culpable violation of the Constitution, corruption, other high crimes, and betrayal of public trust.
Gadon stated that Sereno did not declare in her Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth (SALN) the “exorbitant lawyer’s fees” of USD 745,000 or PHP37 million which she received from the Philippine government.
Gadon said the issue of SALN declaration is the strongest case presented against the chief justice.
The complaint alleged that Sereno committed corruption when she, among other things, used public funds to finance her extravagant and lavish lifestyle by ordering the purchase of a brand-new luxurious Toyota Land Cruiser 2017 model as her personal vehicle, amounting to more than PHP5 million, and staying in opulent hotels when attending conferences in the country and abroad.
As to the alleged acts constituting high crimes, the complaint alleged that she obstructed justice by ordering the Muntinlupa judges not to issue warrants of arrest against Senator Leila De Lima; and failed to report her high attorney’s fees and pay the appropriate taxes, among others.
On betrayal of public trust, the complaint alleged that Sereno hired an information technology consultant with an excessive compensation without public bidding; sent a strongly-worded but misplaced reply to President Duterte on the judges linked to drugs, thereby inviting a head-on collision between the Presidency and the Judiciary; and prevented CA justices from making a courtesy call on President Rodrigo Duterte.