July 19, 2018, 9:15 am
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Gadon, backers resorting to psywar, says Sereno camp

CHIEF Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno’s camp yesterday said that her accuser, Atty. Lorenzo Gadon, and his backers are now resorting to “propaganda” war to condition the mind of the public that she committed an impeachable offense.

“Powerful forces with vested interest are resorting to a well-funded propaganda war. Despite their efforts, people have not been easily duped by Lorenzo Gadon’s allegations,” Atty. Winnie Salumbides, one of the spokespersons of Sereno, said.

“It is part of their psywar campaign to condition the mind of the public. Despite many lengthy hearings, no credible evidence was presented to prove that CJ Sereno committed an impeachable offense,” he added.

Salumbides cited recent reports that Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio and five more justices of the High Court are also set to testify against Sereno before the House justice committee.

“They constantly float new names and personalities supposed to testify against the Chief Justice. It is all part of propaganda to make it appear that Chief Justice Sereno is losing support among her colleagues in the Supreme Court,” Salumbides said.

“Since Gadon and his principals want to conduct long hearings, they need to hold a parade of many so-called witnesses to tell stories that are either hearsay, purely personal angst, malicious innuendos, or deceptive optics designed to mislead and deceive people into thinking that there’s basis to oust the Chief Justice,” Salumbodes added.

Aside from Carpio, the other magistrates supposed to testify against Sereno are Associate Justices Diosdado Peralta, Lucas Bersamin, Mariano del Castillo, Samuel Martires and Andres Reyes Jr.

Associate Justices Teresita Leonardo - De Castro, Francis Jardeleza and Noel Tijam have appeared before the committee, along with retired Associate Justice Arturo Brion.

Sereno’s camp said the House panel hearing the impeachment complaint has allowed itself to be used by Gadon.

“As it appears, the committee still wants to continue gathering evidence, or build up Gadon’s case as some members probably know that the allegations are baseless and will not prosper. Hence, they continue to stage a parade involving Supreme Court magistrates,” Salumbides said.

FAIR HEARING?

The chair of the House committee on justice yesterday said his panel has been fair in its hearing on Gadon’s impeachment complaint against Sereno, whose colleagues have decried her alleged penchant for acting unilaterally on matters involving the Supreme Court en banc.

Rep. Reynaldo Umali (PDP-Laban, Oriental Mindoro) said his panel “will continue to be fair and objective to all parties concerned in ferreting out the truth during our hearings.”

Umali, whose panel will resume its hearings on determination of probable cause next month, was reacting to retired Supreme Court associate justice Arturo Brion for his “encouraging” comments on the way the panel has been conducting the hearings.

In his column in a major daily, Brion said he was impressed by the manner by which Umali handled the hearing.

“I have seen congressional hearings in the past and I am aware of how they are usually run. I can therefore compare the manner the present House justice committee conducted its impeachment hearing with those I have seen before. I found the present proceedings very impressive,” Brion said.

Umali’s panel was criticized after Sereno’s lawyers were barred from participating in the proceedings on the ground that the complaint has not yet reached a full-blown trial in the Senate where defense lawyers will be given their day in court.

Brion said Umali “generally allowed the resource persons to speak without interruption, with no comments from the chair except to read the cited legal provisions after the resource persons’ presentations.”

“He (Umali) likewise allowed the congressmen the widest latitude in questioning the resource persons, diplomatically interrupting them only when the congressmen deviated from the immediate issues or had begun to argue with the resource persons,” he said.

Brion, in his testimony before the justice panel last December 11, recalled how Sereno made it difficult for then Solicitor General and now SC Associate Justice Francis Jardeleza to be included in the shortlist for SC nominees.

So far, three incumbent SC justices have testified against Sereno in the hearing: Associate Justices Teresita Leonardo-De Castro, 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 next year: Associate Justices Diosdado Peralta, Lucas Bersamin, Mariano del Castillo, Samuel Martires, Andres Reyes Jr. and Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio was also invited to attend the hearing on January 18.

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.

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. – With Wendell Vigilia
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