July 18, 2018, 8:00 pm
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Alvarez challenges Sereno anew to attend hearings

CHIEF Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno refuses to participate in the hearings on the impeachment complaint she is facing before the House committee on justice because the allegations are being proven and solidified by different witnesses, according to Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez.

“What is Chief Justice Sereno doing? She doesn’t want to confront the truth, she doesn’t want to face the committee on justice to explain her side. Now, isn’t it true that if you’re innocent, you’re ready (to) face anyone to answer the accusation against you but if you’re hiding something and you know you have done wrong, naturally, you’ll be afraid (to face it),” Alvarez told ANC.

Sereno’s camp stood pat on their decision not to attend the hearings, saying there is no need for her to personally refute the allegations of Gadon since the case against her weak.

Lawyer Carlo Cruz, one of Sereno’s spokesperson, said: “There appears no real need for her to appear at this point because the evidence thus far presented has been wholly inadequate to establish any or enough impeachable offense to justify the filing of the articles of impeachment.” 

Sereno’s camp had earlier said the allegations against her were “guesswork based on newspaper reports” and “hearsay sources.”

Last November, lawyer Abdeil Dan Elijah Fajardo, president of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines, said the impeachment complaint is weak and lacking in substance.

Alvarez said that while he respects Sereno’s decision to stay in her post, the testimonies of various witnesses buttress the allegations raised against her in the impeachment complaint filed by lawyer Larry Gadon.

“The public can see now that the allegations in the complaint are being proven one by one. Various witnesses are testifying, even her fellow justices, to prove that the charges are true,” he said.

The Speaker said Sereno and her lawyers should stop offering the alibi that those who are testifying against her, especially SC Associate Justice Teresita Leonardo-De Castro and her fellow justices, are only doing so because of personal grudges.

“Let’s not use it to defend her (Sereno). Answer their testimonies. Confront the truth, confront the facts,” Alvarez told Sereno.

Alvarez vowed to give Sereno a fair hearing if she will personally attend the proceedings, saying the House is just doing its job pursuant to the Constitution.

“We also don’t want these impeachment complaints but someone filed it. This is a Constitutional process that we have to understand. When someone files it, we have to process it because it’s our mandate under the Constitution,” he said.

Gadon cited 27 acts in his complaint where Sereno allegedly betrayed public trust, committed corruption, and other high crimes, particularly the untruthful declaration of her wealth in her Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth (SALN), the same ground that allies of former president Benigno Aquino III used to oust then Chief Justice Renato Corona in 2012.

Sereno’s colleagues led by De Castro accused her of acting unilaterally on matters involving the Court en banc.

So far, three incumbent SC justices have testified against Sereno in the hearing: De Castro and Associate Justices Francis Jardeleza and Noel Tijam.

The three justices testified to prove Gadon’s allegations, including the allegation that Sereno delayed the resolution of the urgent request of the Department of Justice (DOJ) for the transfer of cases involving Maute terrorists to courts outside Mindanao.

Six other SC justices may attend the hearing this year – Associate Justices Diosdado Peralta, Lucas Bersamin, Mariano del Castillo, Samuel Martires, Andres Reyes Jr. Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio was also invited to attend the hearing on January 18.

Retired Supreme Court associate justice Arturo Brion testified on how Sereno made it difficult for former Solicitor General and now SC Associate Justice Francis Jardeleza to be included in the shortlist for SC nominees.

Other SC officials, including Court Administrator Jose Midas Marquez and Clerk of Court Felipa Anama, have already testified before the panel which is trying to determine if the complaint has probable cause to merit a trial in the Senate. – With Ashzel Hachero

 
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