Sereno won't quit amid Palace official's resign call

By Christopher Lloyd Caliwan

November 6, 2017, 5:29 pm

MANILA -- Supreme Court Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno will not resign from her post, her spokesperson said on Monday.

“As previously declared, resignation has never been an option. The CJ (Chief Justice) needs to face the impeachment proceeding precisely to preserve the dignity and independence of both the Supreme Court and the Office of the Chief Justice. She has done nothing to ‘damage’ the institution, and she has been doing everything to strengthen it,” lawyer Carlo Cruz, one of Sereno’s spokespersons, said.

This is in response to Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque's call for Sereno to vacate her post to "spare the institution from any further damage."

For her part, Atty. Josalee S. Deinla, another spokesperson of Sereno, reminded Roque to be wary of his statements as he is now speaking for the President and no longer just for himself.

"Didn't the President say earlier that it will be "hands off" and have nothing to do with the impeachment?," Deinla noted.

"It would be prudent for Atty. Roque not to prejudge the case and let it run its course in accordance with the Constitution. After all -- Atty. Roque as one of the endorsers of the complaint knows this very well -- the case will soon be deliberated upon at the House Committee on Justice where the rights of the Chief Justice as respondent ought to be respected," she added.

Deinla also lashed out at the Chief Justice's accusers, tagging them as the ones who are causing damage to the high court.

"At any rate, Atty. Roque's statements are premature and misdirected as it is the Chief Justice's accusers who are inflicting damage to the Supreme Court," Deinla said.

The lady lawyer said the Chief Justice remains unfazed by the false accusations against her and is as resolved as ever to keep serving the people at the helm of the Judiciary.

"Sa kabila ng pag-atake sa personal na pagkatao ni CJ Sereno at bilang Punong Mahistrado, nananatili pong buo ang loob nya sa pagtupad ng kanyang tungkulin bilang Supreme Court Chief Justice," she said.

The Chief Justice has a pending impeachment complaint in Congress. She is accused of culpable violation of the Constitution, corruption, other high crimes and betrayal of public trust.

Part of the accusation against Sereno includes the questionable purchase of the Land Cruiser worth over Php5-million.

Deinla, in a forum, said that the Land Cruiser was purchased by the Office of the Chief Justice for security reasons.

“Yung Land Cruiser na ito ay hindi nya binili dahil gusto nyang [Sereno] magpaka Doña o dahil sa kapritso. Binili ito para magsilbing security vehicle,” Deinla told reporters during the forum at the Manila Hotel.

But Deinla said under a circular from the Department of Budget and Management (DBM), there are certain officials, including the Chief Justice that are allowed to acquire certain types of security vehicle.

“This was allowed by the Supreme Court and followed the procurement process,” Deinla said.

She added that they are confident to achieve justice from the impeachment complaints.

“We have not lost faith that is why we keep on submitting motion [to the House of Representatives Committee on Justice] and we still have faith in our democratic institutions” Deinla noted.

Sereno’s camp asserts the disconnection of the accusations and evidence provided by the complainants.

The impeachment complaint filed by lawyer Larry Gadon accuses Sereno of having an extravagant lifestyle and questions her Statement of Assets, Liabilities & Net worth (SALN) and payment of her Income Tax Returns (ITR) in the past five years of being Chief Justice.

The complainant has been asking the Judicial Bar Council to release information of the psychological evaluation of the Chief Justice.

“She [Chief Justice Sereno] believes that the Judicial Bar Council (JBC) is not disclosing this for a good reason… yet psychological incapacity is not an impeachable offense,” Deinla said.

According to Deinla, the Chief Justice still insists not to attend the upcoming proceedings in the House of Representative and rather asks the House Committee on Justice to allow her counsel to speak in her defense.

“Kasama yun sa karapatan, to defend herself and by her counsel. Yung abogado niya ang kakatawan sa kanya. Hindi siya dadalo. Siya na nga ang respondent, siya pa ang abogado. How can she defend herself while fulfilling her duties as CJ?” she explained. PNA (with Paolo Cruz-OJT/PNA)