Sereno submits reply to impeachment complaint

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Story updated to include statements from Chief Justice Sereno's lawyers.

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, September 25) — Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno filed on Monday her reply to the impeachment complaint against her at the House of Representatives.

Justin Mendoza, Sereno's lawyer, filed it on her behalf at the Office of the House Committee on Justice.

The reply came after the House Justice Committee on Sept. 13 found the complaint filed by lawyer Larry Gadon "sufficient in form and substance."

Also read: One of two impeachment raps vs. Chief Justice Sereno hurdles House panel

In a Monday media briefing, Sereno's lead counsel, Alex Poblador, said although Gadon used official documents as evidence in his complaint, these do not support his allegations against the Chief Justice.

He added the only evidence supporting Gadon's claims are newspaper articles, thus making these hearsay.

After receiving the reply, the House Justice Committee will hold another hearing to determine whether or not there is probable cause to proceed with the complaint.

Poblador said Sereno will not attend the hearing, but that her lawyers will cross-examine witnesses against her.

SALN misdeclaration, lavish lifestyle

Gadon said Sereno violated the Constitution when she falsified orders and resolutions of the high court, misdeclared her Statement of Assets, Liabilities, and Net worth, and manipulated the Judicial Bar Council, among others.

Read: Gadon shows Sereno's SALNs as proof she didn't declare ₱37M income from PIATCO case

The Constitution provides Supreme Court justices may only be removed from office through impeachment. The grounds are culpable violation of the Constitution, treason, bribery, graft and corruption, betrayal of public trust or other high crimes.

Gadon said Sereno is a corrupt public official and "used public funds to finance her extravagant and lavish lifestyle," citing the purchase of a P5-million, 2017 Toyota Land Cruiser for her personal use.

He added the Chief Justice spent government funds in luxurious hotels and brought a "huge entourage of lawyers in her supposed official foreign trips."

Sereno committed other high crimes, the complaint read, when she ordered Muntinlupa judges not to issue arrest warrants against Senator Leila de Lima who is detained over drug charges.

Gadon said Sereno ordered Court of Appeals justices to question processes in the House before the high court, in addition to not paying appropriate taxes and lying in her application for the judiciary by overstating her credentials.

He said the Chief Justice betrayed public trust when she "attacked" several pronouncements of President Rodrigo Duterte - including the declaration of martial law in Mindanao - and appointed officials without the approval of the full Supreme Court.

Not true

Sereno denied all allegations in a Sept. 13 statement released by her spokesperson.

"We maintain that, contrary to the findings of the House Committee on Justice, none of the allegations in the complaints is true. For this reason, we respectfully submit that the complaints cannot be considered sufficient in both form and substance," said lawyer Carlo Cruz.

In an interview on CNN Philippines' News Night, Cruz, who is also Sereno's spokesman, said the complaint lacks evidence to substantiate an impeacheable offense.

Cruz added the allegations on some "deviations" from internal proceedings in the Supreme Court are not impeachable offenses.

"Our hope is that somehow, they would employ a higher standard of evidence for purposes of these proceedings, not because it's mainly Sereno who is on trial here… but it is the position of Chief Justice," Cruz said.

Meanwhile, Jojo Lacanilao, one of Sereno's lawyers, said on Monday that the Chief Justice will not resign and will challenge the impeachment complaint.

CNN Philippines Digital Producer Eimor P. Santos and Correspondent Joyce Ilas contributed to this report.

This is a developing story. Please refresh the page for updates.