Sereno on impeachment defense: We're 'ready to go'

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Story updated to include other parts of Chief Justice Sereno's exclusive interview.

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, March 8) — Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno is ready to face the Senate impeachment court.

When asked about her preparations, Sereno said in an exclusive interview with CNN Philippines her team was "quite advanced [and] ready to go."

Alex Poblador will lead her legal team. Other than that information, Sereno deferred other issues to her lawyers preparing her defense.

Poblador is a founding partner of the Poblador, Bautista & Reyes law office. He graduated valedictorian in 1978 from the University of the Philippines College of Law and placed third in the bar exams that same year. He also has a Master of Laws from the University of Michigan.

Sereno's statement comes after the House Justice Committee, voting 38-2, found probable cause to impeach her. Committee Chair Rey Umali expects the plenary to vote on it by the end of the month.

Read: Sereno on House panel vote: I knew the numbers were not in my favor

Umali previously called for Sereno's resignation in an interview with CNN Philippines' The Source.

But when pressed on what would get her to resign, Sereno answered, "Wala [Nothing]."

Sereno said lawyer Larry Gadon, who filed the impeachment complaint against her, needs to prove his accusations are impeachable offenses.

"Sa dinadami-dami niyang sinalaysay na nagawa ko daw, alin dun po ba yung karumal-dumal kong kasalanan sa bayan?" she said.

[Translation: Of all the things that he said I did, which one of those was an offense to the  country?]

Read: Sereno: Outcome of hearing seemed predetermined

If one-third of the House agrees with the articles of impeachment, the case would be elevated to the Senate for trial. Sereno's camp has long pushed for the complaint to be fast-tracked to the upper house, where they believe they have a chance at disproving the claims against her.

"Everyone has a fighting chance. Especially when you stand on the truth, you have more than a fighting chance," said Sereno.

Here are the other highlights from the full interview with Sereno:

'No big deal' on urge for indefinite leave

Sereno dismissed impressions that the Supreme Court's decision to have her take a leave was a sign that its members wanted her out. Thirteen out of 14 justices made the vote, and the high court attributed the move to "various reasons."

"I don't read anything into that, other than that I agreed to an indefinite leave," she said.

She added the decision was "an administrative matter," and not a statement on judicial independence.

"I don't want to blow it out of proportion. Life goes on, work goes on," said Sereno.

Eight associate justices also spoke in the House hearings regarding Sereno, with only Mariano del Castillo defending her purchase of a high security vehicle.

She also dismissed as a 'non-issue' any talk of betrayal among friends in the court, particularly Associate Justice Marvic Leonen.

When asked about possibly returning to a fractured Supreme Court, she even said "hurts can be healed."

"The movement to go forward can be pushed all in good time… I have not actually borne any grudge against anybody. There is no point in harboring ill will," said Sereno. "All this can actually be set aside."

Read: Sereno on relationship with SC justices: 'Hurts can be healed'

On De Castro: 'That's her opinion'

Sereno waved off any reactions to Associate Justice Teresita De Castro's scolding earlier on Thursday.

"Everyone is entitled to her opinion. So that's her opinion, I leave it at that," she said.

Tension rose between the two justices when De Castro unexpectedly took the microphone to call out Sereno after her speech before a gathering of female judges. She also testified against Sereno at the House hearings.

Related: De Castro calls out Chief Justice for discussing SolGen petition

Sereno to contest psych test, SALNs

Sereno will respond in the Senate about accusation that she failed to file her statements of assets, liabilities, and net worth (SALN) during her term as a professor at the University of the Philippines.

While Sereno maintained "many wrong things were said about my SALN," she said she did not want to preempt her defense.

She added that doubts on her mental fitness due to a psychological exam could "easily be debunked."

The House Justice committee on Thursday voted to declassify the exam results, making it a piece of evidence in her impeachment. However, the Philippine Association of Psychologists earlier said this was a "misuse" of the results.

Read: House panel declassifies results of Sereno's psychological test, discussion in executive session

No comment on quo warranto

Sereno declined to comment on the quo warranto petition she faces before the Supreme Court.

On top of the impeachment effort in Congress, Solicitor General Jose Calida questioned her appointment as Chief Justice through the petition. The high court gave Sereno ten days to reply.

Read: SC gives Sereno 10 days to respond to petition to oust her

Sereno's camp and some senators maintain impeachment is the only way to unseat a Chief Justice. In a speech on Thursday, she dismissed the move as a "gimmick."

Conspiracy vs. Sereno?

"Your guess is as good as mine," said Sereno. "We have to ask some important questions, there are always disclaimers… We have to ask where Calida's actions are coming from."

Sereno is a critic of President Rodrigo Duterte and his bloody war on drugs. She has also voted against his controversial decisions such as the burial of former President Ferdinand Marcos and the extended declaration of martial law in Mindanao.

While Duterte has denied a hand in the impeachment, opposition lawmakers believe the effort to unseat Sereno as a stifling of criticism.

Related: House leaders, some SC justices colluding to oust Sereno - opposition

'For judicial independence'

"I have to clarify that this fight is larger than me… It has to do with judicial independence," said Sereno.

Despite the controversy hounding her, the embattled Chief Justice said she did not regret accepting the post because she wants to shed light to "judges on the frontline."

"They get harassed, bullied, they get threats… On behalf of judges who are similarly situated as I am, I will have to continue to fight," said Sereno.

"Some columnists have spoken of me as black and blue… That does not matter," she added. "You don't count how many punches you've taken. Just continue to fight, with everything you've had, fight."

Catch the replay of CNN Philippines' interview with Sereno at 9 a.m. on Friday, March 9.

CNN Philippines' Digital Producer VJ Bacungan contributed to this report.