MANILA – Malacañang on Thursday, August 31, said it would not interfere in the impeachment complaint against Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno.
In a statement, Palace Spokesperson Ernesto Abella emphasized the separation of powers in the three branches of Philippine government.
Abella also noted that any citizen has the right to initiate an impeachment process by filing a verified complaint upon resolution or endorsement by any member of the House of Representatives.
“The executive branch respects the separation of powers, and being their co-equal, we recognize the exclusive power of the House of Representatives to initiate all cases of impeachment,” the Palace official said.
A day earlier, 25 members of the House of Representatives endorsed the impeachment complaint filed by lawyer Larry Gadon against the chief justice for culpably violating the Constitution, betraying public trust, committing corrupt practices, and other high crimes.
Among those who signed the complaint were House Deputy Speakers Gwendolyn Garcia (Cebu), Mylene Garcia Albano (Davao City), Ferdinand Hernandez (South Cotabato), Frederick Abueg (Palawan),
Also endorsed the complaint were Representatives Edgar Sarmiento (Samar), Anthony Bravo (COOP NATCCO party-list), Arnel Ty (LPGMA party-list), Rodito Albano (Isabela), Francisco Matugas III (Surigao del Norte), Aurelio Gonzales (Pampanga), Federico Sandoval (Malabon), Joel Almario (Davao Oriental), Romeo Acop (Antipolo City), Bingbong Crisologo (Quezon City), Pedro Acharon Jr. (South Cotabato), XJ Romualdo (Camiguin), Gil Acosta (Palawan), Ann Hofer (Zamboanga Sibugay), Winnie Castelo (Quezon City), Jericho Nograles (PBA party-list), John Marvin Nieto (Manila), Robert Ace Barbers (Surigao del Norte), Roger Mercado (Southern Leyte), Jennifer Barzaga (Cavite) and Lorna Bautista-Bandigan (Davao Occidental).
Gadon expressed optimism that he had built a “strong case” to unseat Sereno, saying the grounds for her impeachment are backed up by official documents.
In his impeachment complaint, Gadon accused Sereno of corruption when she used the judiciary funds for the “whimsical” and “excessive” purchase of a Toyota Land Cruiser amounting to P5.1 million.
He also accused Sereno of failing to be truthful in declaring her statement of assets, liabilities, and net worth (SALN) amounting to $745,000 or P37 million when she was a private lawyer and represented the government in an arbitration case.
“To evade payment of appropriate taxes, respondent Sereno never reported this to the Bureau of Internal Revenue. Consequently, respondent Sereno never paid taxes for her extortionate attorney’s fees,” he said.
Additionally, Gadon cited the chief justice’s alleged misuse of judiciary funds to stay in expensive hotels, flying in business or first class with her staff, and bringing a huge entourage of lawyers when attending local and foreign conferences.
The lawmaker said Sereno organized an international conference in Shangri-La Boracay last year “and got herself billeted in the Presidential Villa, easily a P200,000-a-night room.”
He further accused Sereno of obstructing justice when she ordered Muntinlupa judges to not to issue arrest warrants against Senator Leila De Lima.
“Sereno instructed a Supreme Court official to call the judges, to order them not to issue warrants of arrest against the accused, ‘considering she is a senator,’” Gadon said.
A separate impeachment complaint against Sereno has been filed by Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC) Chair Dante Jimenez and Vanguard of the Philippine Constitution (VCPI) President Eligio Mallari, but no member of the House has endorsed their complaint.