Chief Justice: complainant admits allegations vs. me not 'impeachable offenses'

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Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, and the impeachment complainant, Atty. Larry Gadon. (FILE PHOTO)

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, October 2) — Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno on Monday hit back at an impeachment complaint against her, saying the allegations in it are not "impeachable offenses."

This was included in the rejoinder filed by her lawyers to the House Committee on Justice.

Sereno's lawyers said the document explains why the impeachment complainant, Attorney Larry Gadon, failed to substantiate his allegations against Sereno in his reply to her.

"'Yung mga pahayag ni Gadon mismo na ilan sa mga reklamo niya ay hindi impeachable na mga bagay, hindi impeachable offenses ang mga ito," Sereno's spokesman Attorney Josalee Deinla told reoprters.

"Ang ikalawa, pagbanggit nya na ilan sa mga alegasyon, 'will be verified' at  'evidentiary hearings.' Ito ay taliwas sa house rules sa interpretasyon ni Gadon sa pagdinig sa House Committee on Justice. Dahil bago ka pumunta sa ganoong pagdinig dapat may sapat ka nang ebidensya," said Deinla added.

[Translation: Gadon's statements that some of his complaints are not grounds for impeachment, they are not impeachable offenses. Second, he said some of his allegations "will be verified" and "evidentiary hearings". These run counter to current House Rules of the House Committee on Justice hearing, because before you go to such a hearing, you need enough evidence.]

Sereno's spokesperson said this should compel the House Justice Committee to dismiss Gadon's complaint.

The rejoinder states some of Gadon's allegations which are not impeachable offenses include the alleged misdeclaration in her Statements of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth (SALN), and her allegedly anomalous acquisition of a luxury vehicle.

In response, Gadon challenged Sereno through a statement to issue a bank waiver that would disclose all her bank accounts, including transactions, deposits, withdrawals, and current balances.

Read more: Sereno: SALN includes waiver allowing access to financial records

Allow cross-examination

Meanwhile, Sereno's lawyers insisted that the House panel should allow the Chief Justice, through her lawyers, to confront and cross-examine witnesses presented in the next hearing.

"Saan ba galing iyong ganoong iginigiit ni Representative Umali? Wala naman iyon sa Rules," Deinla said referring to the head of the house justice committee, Reynaldo Umali.

[Translation: Where did Rep. Umali's claims come from? They are not in the Rules.]

Umali earlier said  lawyers will not be allowed to speak during the hearing, under House Rules. Umali added only Sereno, the respondent, is allowed to confront the witnesses.

"Tandaan natin, ang impeachment proceeding, this is akin to a criminal prosecution. Para siyang nasasakdal sa isang kriminal na kaso kung saan kailangan ang kanyang mga karapatan bilang akusado ay alagaan. At walang sinuman ang puwedeng magkait ng karapatan sa kanyang abogado," Deinla said.

[Translation: Remember, an impeachment proceeding is akin to criminal prosecution. She's like the defendant in a criminal case, where her rights as the accused should be protected. And no one can deprive you of the right to your lawyer.]

Sereno's lawyers said they will exhaust all legal means possible if the committee refuses to allow them to speak.

The House Justice Committee found Gadon's complaint sufficient in form and substance on September 13. The House panel will submit to the plenary its report and resolution on the complaint by March 2018, or within the prescribed 60 session days.

Sereno is the second Philippine Chief Justice facing impeachment after the late Renato Corona, who was impeached in 2012.