MANILA, Philippines – An impeachment complaint will be filed against Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno before the House of Representatives this week by a lawyer, who ran but lost in the 2016 senatorial polls and volunteered as counsel for pro-administration group Duterte Youth in its tiff with singer-composer Jim Paredes during the celebration of the EDSA uprising last February.
Lorenzo “Larry” Gadon, president of Pro-Duterte Constitutional Reformers to Federalism, on Monday claimed that Sereno had betrayed public trust when the Supreme Court allegedly bought for her a sport utility vehicle (SUV) for P5.1 million, which the lawyer claimed was “immodest and extravagant,” especially when the highest leader of the land only uses a second-hand vehicle.
“Si Presidente (Rodrigo) Duterte nga hindi nga nagpabili ng bagong sasakyan at ang ginagamit n’yang sasakyan ay ‘yong pinaglumaan lang [Even President Duterte did not ask that he be bought a new car and the one he uses is second-hand],” Gadon said in an interview with dzMM radio.
He alleged that Sereno did not immediately use the car because she wanted it bulletproof, which would require another P3 million from the judiciary fund.
“Ito ay matatawag nating betrayal of public trust sapagkat sa panahon ngayon na marami nang sakuna, maraming digrasya, at maraming naghihirap, ay hindi…angkop na ang isang top public official ng isang departamento ay magwawaldas ng ganon kalaking pera…” he added.
[We can call this betrayal of public trust because at this time when there are many accidents and many people are suffering from poverty, it is not appropriate for a top official of a department to waste such big amount of money.]
Sereno’s camp on Monday refused to comment on Gadon’s allegations. Lawyer Theodore Te, the high court’s spokesperson said, “There will be an appropriate time for comments on things like those. This is not the time.”
Gadon further claimed that the chief justice was being unfair and selfish because while public fund was allocated to acquire a Toyota Land Cruiser for her, Sereno allegedly wasn’t approving many applications for survivor benefits of the families of judges and justices who passed away.
“Ang kalunos-lunos sa bagay na ito ay maraming applications ng survivorship benefits ng mga pamilya ng mga namatay na justices at judges pero hindi n’ya inaaksyunan, hindi n’ya gina-grant,” he said.
According to Gadon, the cost of the SUV based on the dealer’s website was just P4.5 million or P600,000 lesser than the P5.1-million car acquired by the high court for Sereno.
“(S)a Toyota website mismo makikita mo na ang presyo ng kotseng ‘yon P4.5 million lamang, eto na ‘yong top of the line, ‘yong automatic…Tapos, ang kanilang ibinayad ay P5.1 million…hawak ko ‘yong mga dokumento,” he said.
Gadon said he would also include in his complaint the nearly P16 million in legal fees that Sereno reportedly received when she was still among the lawyers who were hired to defend the government against the complaint filed against it by Philippine International Air Terminals Co. Inc., the builder of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 3, before an international court.
He said Sereno allegedly did not include the said fees in her Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth and that Judge Carlos Valenzuela of the Mandaluyong Regional Trial Court-Branch 213 found the payment illegal and excessive. The case is now pending before the Court of Appeals, according to Gadon.
“‘Di n’ya maitatanggi na tingagap n’ya ‘yong pera na ‘yon sapagkat naging isyu ito ng isang kaso sa Mandaluyong na ngayon ay naka-appeal sa CA. Sinabi no’ng judge sa RTC Madaluyong na excessive at unconscionable ‘yong legal fees na binayad sa kanya sapagakat hindi naman talaga nararapat na magkaroon ng external counsel sapagkat meron namang tayong OSG (Office of the Solicitor General),” said Gadon.