MANILA – Despite facing impeachment complaint, Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno remains committed to her duties at the Supreme Court, Sereno’s spokesman lawyer Carlo Cruz said on Friday.
“The public may rest assured that the Chief Justice remains committed to her duties at the Supreme Court, and continues to pursue the judicial reform agenda even as the impeachment process unfolds,” Cruz said in a statement sent to reporters.
Cruz said the Office of the Chief Justice has officially received the copy of the impeachment complaint filed by Atty. Lorenzo Gadon.
Sereno’s camp has 10 days to respond to the complaint. “We confirm that the Secretary General of the House Committee on Justice has served a copy of the impeachment complaint to the Office of the Chief Justice. We now have ten days to formally respond to this complaint,” he noted.
“In her answer, she will explain why the complaint must fail. Chief Justice Sereno has always been a staunch defender of the Judiciary and our democracy, and has always exercised utmost competence, integrity, probity, and independence in her official conduct and in the performance of her functions,” said Cruz.
On Wednesday, a total of 30 lawmakers voted that the Gadon complaint was sufficient in form while only four voted against it.
In determining sufficiency in form, the complaint filed by a citizen must be endorsed by an incumbent congressman and must also be verified.
The aspect of verification requires that the complainant has personal knowledge or that the allegations made are supported by authentic documents.
The requirement of substance, on the other hand, is met if there is a recital of facts constituting the offenses charged and determinative of the jurisdiction of the committee.
House Justice Committee chair Reynaldo Umali said impeachment proceedings are political in nature and the standard of individual appreciation of each committee member in determining if the complaint’s sufficiency in substance is followed.
“The impeachment process is a democratic one, and the will of the majority shall always prevail,” Umali said.
“Impeachment is the most formidable weapon in the arsenal of democracy. We will not hesitate to wield this weapon if our democratic institutions are in danger,” he added.
The next stage of the impeachment proceedings is the determination of the sufficiency of the grounds alleged in the complaint and determination of probable cause based on evidence submitted to the committee.
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.
Gadon said Sereno did not declare in her Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth (SALN) the “exorbitant lawyer’s fees” of USD745,000 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 stay in opulent hotels when attending conferences in the country and abroad.