MANILA — The legal team of the Supreme Court (SC) Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno on Monday filed her ‘verified’ answer to lawyer Larry Gadon’s impeachment complaint, calling for its dismissal.
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 USD745,000 or PHP37 million which she received from the Philippine government.
The justice panel has found the Gadon complaint as sufficient in both form and substance in a 30-4 vote.
In a press conference after the filing, lawyer Alex Poblador, Sereno’s lead counsel, said the verified answer maintains that the charges in the Gadon complaint are “totally false” and “absolutely without any basis on the facts.”
Poblador added the charges do not constitute grounds for impeachment under the Constitution.
“In this answer, we asked that the complaint be dismissed for two reasons. Firstly, the charges alleged are false. Secondly, they do not constitute acts which the Constitution provides for impeachment,”
Poblador explained the allegations are not based on personal knowledge or authentic records, but on “hearsay” derived from news reports or articles.
He said that while there are certified true copies of relevant documents procured from the SC, these documents do not necessarily support or substantiate the allegations made in the complaint.
He called on the House justice committee to accord Sereno the full exercise of her rights.
“Because impeachment proceedings are analogous to criminal proceedings, it is our hope that the House committee will accord the Chief Justice full exercise of her rights to be heard by counsel and to confront the witnesses in the complaint by cross-examination,”
The verified answer cautioned the House not to abuse its judicial power of impeachment by deciding without any sufficient legal and factual basis.
Sereno’s legal team’s ‘verified’ answer included such statements as:
“If the grounds for impeachment of the Chief Justice can be trivialized to include any grounds which Congress may consider, the fate of the Judiciary would be subjected to the whims of Congress,”
“[The abuse of power by the legislative] would in effect place a co-equal branch at its mercy and imperil the very existence of our democratic form of government–a government which rests on the principle of independence and equality of the three great branches of government,”
Poblador also urged justice panel members, as sitting judges for the determination of probable cause, to decide on the basis of facts and law “and not on the dictates of their political leaders in line with some political agenda.”