THE Supreme Court has given its nod to the release of more documents in connection with the impeachment complaint against Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, the latest of which is her personal data sheet (PDS) and those of her staff.
During deliberations of the full court or the en banc on September 5, 14 justices agreed to release the PDS of Sereno when she applied for the high court on 2010 and when she applied for chief justice on 2012.
Magistrates also ordered the release of the PDS of Brenda Jay Angeles-Mendoza whose appointment as Philippine Judicial Academy (PHILJA) chief of office for the Philippine Mediation Center Office (PMCO) was questioned by Justice Teresita Leonardo-de Castro.
De Castro earlier asked the en banc to “revoke” and “recall” the appointment of Mendoza to the position, which is equivalent to a Court of Appeals justice, as it was made without the approval of the full court.
De Castro pointed out that Mendoza was the “first and only regular PMCO Chief of Office appointed without a PHILJA Board of Trustees Resolution and with Court en banc approval,” as required by the tribunal’s rules.
On Wednesday, the House of Representatives’ Committee on Justice upheld one of two impeachment complaints against Sereno as sufficient in form and substance.
The approved complaint, filed by lawyer Lorenzo Gadon, accuses Sereno of:
• culpable violation of the Constitution for falsifying various documents, misdeclaring her statement of assets and liabilities and manipulating the screening of judiciary applicants at the Judicial and Bar Council;
• corruption, for using public funds to finance a “lavish lifestyle,” such as staying in posh hotels overseas and purchasing an expensive SUV as her service vehicle;
• other high crimes, for obstructing justice by instructing a Muntinlupa court not to issue a warrant of arrest against Sen. Leila de Lima on drug charges, failing to pay taxes on attorney’s fees and embellishing her credentials; and
• betrayal of public trust, for favoritism and acts usurping powers reserved to the en banc or the full Supreme Court, such the appointment of court personnel and allowing new staff to travel abroad.
Gadon sought the release of 20 documents from the court. The Supreme Court has allowed the release of Sereno’s statements of assets liabilities and net worth and documents on her foreign and domestic travels as well as her bulletproof luxury service vehicle.
On Friday, Sereno’s spokesman, lawyer Carlo Cruz, said the impeachment complaint was officially served to the chief justice’s office, giving her 10 days to reply.
“In her answer, she will explain why the complaint must fail. Chief Justice Sereno has always been a staunch defender of the Judiciary and our democracy, and has always exercised utmost competence, integrity, probity, and independence in her official conduct and in the performance of her functions,” Cruz said in a statement.
“The public may rest assured that the Chief Justice remains committed to her duties at the Supreme Court, and continues to pursue the judicial reform agenda even as the impeachment process unfolds,” he added.
Cruz told The Manila Times Sereno’s decision to fight the impeachment complaint against her was not just because she wanted to cling to her post.
“She needs to face these charges for the sake of the independence of the judiciary and of her and her family’s reputation,” he said.
Aguirre to testify
Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre 2nd said he was willing to testify, if subpoenaed, in the Sereno impeachment trial in relation to Gadon’s allegation that the chief justice “manipulated and therefore delayed the resolution of A.M. No 17-06-02-SC (the request of the Secretary of Justice to transfer the Maute cases outside of Mindanao) after realizing that she lost in the voting.”
“If there was a delay because my first request was not immediately granted, instead of being granted the cases were being transferred to Iligan and Cagayan de Oro…I will testify only as to what happened there,” Aguirre said.