CHIEF Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno said Thursday she is unfazed that her colleagues in the Supreme Court have testified against her in impeachment proceedings at the House of Representatives and vowed to fight to the end.
Speaking before a youth forum in UP Diliman on Thursday, the embattled chief justice again claimed the truth is on her side.
“I’m sure as the sun rises from the east and sets in the west, I’m sure God’s will will prevail,” Sereno said.
“Those who stand for the truth should not be deprived of rights. We should all listen to the truth and not cover it with lies,” Sereno said.
The chief justice believes her fight is a “fight for the people and the Constitution” as she thanked people who supported her in her ordeal.
“Thank you, my countrymen who told me that my battle is also their battle,” she said.
Sereno also again appealed for support in hurdling the impeachment case against her.
“If you believe in the importance of due process, then let us support judicial reforms,” she pleaded.
“This is an opportunity for us to have a grand vision of our future. Let’s tackle the meaning of accountability, independence of the judiciary and separation of powers,” she said.
Sereno made the statements following the testimony of Associate Justice Teresita Leonardo-De Castro in the House justice committee that provided the missing element of personal knowledge in the complaint of lawyer Lorenzo Gadon.
Associate Justices Francis Jardeleza, Noel Tijam and Arturo Brion are also set to testify in the next hearings.
The chief justice also attended a Mass yesterday offered by her supporters—mostly officials from the previous administration.
Sereno has refused to attend the hearings and the House committee on justice has barred her lawyers from cross examining witnesses, saying the chief justice herself should do that.
The lawyers said they would just wait for the case to go to trial in the Senate, where they hope for fairer treatment.
In her speech at UP Diliman, Sereno again said she would not resign because she has done nothing wrong.
She said she has even implemented reforms in the judiciary.
“If there are people who wanted me out because of anger or hatred, what about our youth? What message would it bring if I resign?” she asked.
She hit out her accusers, saying allegations against her were just lies being hurled by some people who refused to accept the reforms she has instituted at the Supreme Court.
She also said she would not give in to pressures from those who want to tilt the balance of power by weakening the judiciary.
In the House, Oriental Mindoro Rep. Reynaldo Umali, chairman of the committee on justice, said the impeachment proceedings would stop if Sereno resigns.
The impeachment hearings are scheduled to resume Tuesday next week, he said, when De Castro returns to continue her testimony.
Gadon said Thursday De Castro’s testimony spells doom for Sereno, who will inevitably be impeached by the House.
He said De Castro’s statements backed by documentary proof were “incontrovertible evidence.”
“The testimony of Justice Teresita De Castro is more than enough and sufficient to impeach Sereno. Her testimony, aside from being supported with documentary evidence, is tremendously strong since the issues under question are matters precisely within her knowledge as she herself was a direct participant in those matters of administrative orders and TRO resolutions–a first hand knowledge by direct participation,” he added.
Testifying before the House justice committee, De Castro accused the Chief Justice of misrepresenting the collegial decision of the SC in ordering the creation of the Regional Court Administrative Office (RCAO) in Region 7 in issuing Administrative Order No. 175-2012 without the approval of her colleagues as required by their internal rules.
De Castro also testified that the chief justice violated court rules she issued a blanket temporary restraining order on the Commission on Elections’ proclamation of party-lists in 2013.
De Castro said she was the member-in-charge of the case and recommended issuance of TRO on Senior Citizens party-list’s case, but Sereno instead issued a blanket TRO that was “grossly unprocedural because she included third parties who were not included in the case.”
She also testified on the SC decision she penned that declared unconstitutional the clustering of shortlisted nominees made by the Judicial and Bar Council last year in connection with the vacancies in the Sandiganbayan, which Sereno allegedly manipulated.
Lastly, she discussed the merits of her separate concurring opinion in the August 2014 ruling that voided the JBC’s decision not to include the name of then Solicitor General Francis Jardeleza on the shortlist of nominees for SC justice post after Sereno raised an integrity issue against him.
With the charges against Sereno now based on solid evidence, Gadon again called on Sereno to resign to avoid further humiliation.
“If she does not resign by Monday (Dec.4), I am going to file graft and corruption cases against her and some of her minions in SC over the issue of the hiring of IT consultants, which was found to be illegal,” he stressed.
Gadon said he plans to file the cases next week immediately once Sereno refuses to step down.
He cited a fact-finding report submitted to the SC which recommended that the contract amounting to about P10 million for the services of IT consultant Helen Perez-Macasaet be voided for “lapses in the procurement process.”
It stated that the contract violated existing laws and Commission on Audit rules because it did not undergo public bidding.
The report was submitted by newly-appointed Assistant Court Administrator Maria Regina Adoracion Filomena Ignacio, acting chief attorney of the Supreme Court who was tasked by the full court to investigate the matter in an earlier administrative order.
The contract, which covered six periods of six months each from Oct. 2013 to June 2016, involved services of Macasaet “to provide technical and policy advice to the Office of the Chief Justice and the Management Information Systems Office of the Supreme Court regarding implementatiom of EISP (Enterprise Information Systems Plan) and related ICT (information communication technology) projects.”
In the first period under the contract, Macasaet was paid P600,000 or P100,000 per month. But in the succeeding periods, the amount was increased to P1.5 million or P250,000 per month.
The report has already been submitted to the justices but they have yet to review it and decide whether or not to approve the recommendation of Ignacio and strike down the contract, which was already fully paid and has already lapsed.
However, the head of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines was not convinced by the charges against Sereno. Abdeil Dan Elijah Fajardo believes that the case against the chief justice is weak.
Fajardo lamented how the House justice committee is being misled by Gadon, whom he likened to a “summary writer” of newspaper reports and rumors in the SC.
“At first, we wanted to give the benefit of the doubt to attorney Gadon because he might really have something there. But as it is turning out now, the complaint appears to be just a summary of what has been publicized either through newspaper reports or through blind items or rumors about the inner workings of the Supreme Court,” Fajardo said in an interview.
He cited Gadon’s claim that he received information against Sereno from Manila Times reporter Jomar Canlas, who supposedly got the same from De Castro.
Both De Castro and Canlas have denied the claim.