Sereno camp: Former Chief Justice not a party to PIATCO case

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, June 8) — Ousted Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno is not a party to the arbitration case against the builder of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Terminal 3.

"CJ Sereno is not a party to the case, which is between the government and PIATCO. She was hired by government as a lawyer and she accepted the engagement in good faith," said lawyer Jojo Lacanilao.

He said the former Chief Magistrate should not be dragged into the issue on the decision of CA on this case because she was merely "one of the lawyers that helped the government win the case against PIATCO," he added.

Sereno's spokesman is reacting to the Court of Appeals ruling saying the fees paid to the government's private lawyers in its arbitration case are illegal. In its June 4 ruling, the appellate court's Special 11th Division affirmed the lower court's decision that in hiring of local and foreign lawyers, the government violated the "fundamental public policy" on the use of public funds.

It added the government irregularly procured the services of private lawyers including former Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno. The court said the process did not go through public bidding.

Sereno's earnings in the Philippine International Air Terminals Co., Inc.(PIATCO) case was one of the issues raised in her impeachment complaint for allegedly not paying the correct taxes.

The total cost of the arbitration proceedings amounted to USD 6 million including litigation expenses and attorney's fees.

The court ruled that there's no justification for the government to hire and engage the services of foreign law firms to represent it in the arbitration. It pointed out the Office of the Solicitor General is more familiar with Philippine laws than the foreign lawyers.

No doubt, it added, the government's arbitration costs and expenses were not only irregular an unnecessary but also "extravagant, excessive, and unconscionable."