PHILIPPINE Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno on Friday, March 9 described herself as “calm and battle ready” a day after the House Committee on Justice found that there was probable cause to impeach her.
Speaking at a forum organized by the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines (FOCAP), Sereno remained unfazed despite the recent moves seeking her ouster.
“I am confident that in time, the baselessness of the charges against me will come out so I am, as you can see, calm and battle-ready,” she said, adding that she would “stick it out to the end.”
She added, “I think the lesson that should be seen, the message that should be received by the public is [that] the chief justice, when she believes that the cause is right, and the cause here is judicial independence, will fight no matter the chances, regardless of the odds.”
The House Committee on Justice ruled on Thursday, March 8 that there was probable cause to have the top magistrate tried before an impeachment court.
Saying that the panel’s decision is “not unexpected,” Sereno challenged the House of Representatives anew to elevate the case against her to the Senate, which will act as the impeachment court.
“What they have done is not unexpected. I had expected that from the start and I reiterate my call for them to elevate it to the Senate,” Sereno said.
In an earlier statement, Sereno claimed that the House panel has denied her of her “right to confront and cross-examine the witnesses.”
The committee had refused to allow Sereno’s lawyers to attend the hearings against her, insisting that the chief justice herself should show up. The top magistrate expressed the belief that she could properly defend herself when her case reaches the Senate.
The committee is currently drafting articles of impeachment against her, which will be submitted to the plenary for approval. The House is expected to vote on Sereno’s impeachment in May, and if it gets at least one-third vote of approval, it will be forwarded to the Senate.
The impeachment complaint against Sereno was filed by Lawyer Larry Gadon, who accused her of culpable of violation of the Constitution, betrayal of public trust, corruption, and other high crimes.
Gadon accused Sereno of misleading her Statement of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth (SALN), bypassing the en banc, and delaying the benefits of retired Supreme Court personnel, among others.
During Friday’s press conference, Sereno denounced the hidden wealth allegations hurled against her.
“I have absolutely nothing to hide and cannot hide anything because what is disclosed in my SALNs is what there is,” she maintained.
Regarding allegations on her missing SALNs when she was a professor at the University of the Philippines (UP), Sereno said: “You cannot accumulate wealth in UP. Their problem is unexplained poverty not hidden wealth.”
She went on to say, “All evidence points to a very simple lifestyle, below the means we could actually have used for consumption. It was a deliberate step for my husband and I to live a simple lifestyle…because we needed to be free to help others and to be free of conflicts of interest generated by attachment to material goods.”
“Because of that deliberate decision, I don’t think there is any question of hidden wealth here,” Sereno added.