MANILA, Philippines – Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno is facing threats of an impeachment case due to an alleged P5-million car purchase at the Supreme Court (SC), and supposed undeclared millions worth of earnings when she was still a private lawyer.
Lawyer Larry Gadon told Rappler on Saturday, July 29, that he is leading the case buildup against Sereno, which he hopes to file before the House of Representatives next week.
An impeachment complaint is considered officially filed at the House if it has the endorsement of a congressman.
"I am already talking to some congressmen who have committed to endorsing it. I cannot disclose their names at this time," Gadon said.
An impeachment complaint can be filed based on the grounds of culpable violation of the constitution, treason, bribery, graft and corruption, other high crimes and betrayal of public trust.
Gadon said the vehicle purchase by Sereno can be considered betrayal of public trust.
Gadon showed Rappler two documents pertaining to the vehicle purchase. One is an endorsement letter dated December 2, 2016, where Supreme Court (SC) Procurement Committee Assistant Chief Carina Cunanan referred the purchase proposal to SC Bids and Awards Committee Chair Thelma Bahia.
Photos from Atty Larry Gadon
The vehicle is a Toyota Land Cruiser "for the official use of Honorable Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno."
The letter also mentions an estimate of P5.2 million not yet inclusive of the "bullet proofing." (READ: Scrutinizing Sereno, one year after)
The 2nd document dated January 3 this year is a bid abstract for Toyota Makati for the amount of P5,110,500.
"Heto munang nilabas ko 'yung sa car, kasi malaki ang public interest dito kasi si President Duterte nga hindi nga bumili ng bagong sasakyan," Gadon said. (I'm only releasing the car documents for now because there is high public interest here, because even President Duterte did not buy a new car.)
After winning the elections in June 2016, Duterte said he will not use the presidential vehicles and will instead stick to his trusty Isuzu pickup.
Gadon added that his cursory search revealed that the Toyota Land Cruiser Model (200 4.5 L V8 A/T Premium) is only listed at P4.5 million on the Toyota Philippines website.
The second ground used by Gadon is the long-reported supposed earnings of Sereno back when she was a private lawyer and represented the government in an arbitration case. (READ: Sereno faces uphill battle in High Court)
Sereno, retired SC Justice Florentino Feliciano and foreign lawyers represented the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) when Philippine International Air Terminals Co. Inc. (Piatco) sued them for damages before the International Court of Arbitration of the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) in Singapore.
The SC nullified Piatco's contract to build a NAIA terminal in 2003 because of irregularities so Piatco elevated the case before the ICC in Singapore. The government, through the help of lawyers such as Sereno, won that case.
Gadon said Sereno's earnings from that case are not reflected in the Chief Justice's Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth (SALN).
"According to my latest inquiries she earned more than 30 million," Gadon said.
Gadon added: "Undeclared assets in SALN was the ground used against Corona so why shouldn't it be used against Sereno?"
The late former chief justice Renato Corona was impeached at the Senate in 2012 by a vote of 20-3. Corona was found guilty of failing to disclose and accurately declare his bank deposits and properties in his SALN, which constituted betrayal of public trust and culpable violation of the Constitution.
Sereno's 2016 SALN released recently shows her net worth is at Php 24.2 million, more than Php 2.76 million compared to her net worth in 2015, according to a report by the Philippine News Agency (PNA).
The impeachment threat against Sereno comes after Associate Justice Teresita Leonardo de Castro questioned some of her actions in a memorandum sent to SC justices, including travel allowances for the Chief Justice's staff and the appointment of the head of the Philippine Mediation Center (PMC). – Rappler.com