MANILA - While willing to cooperate in the proceedings, Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno on Wednesday asserted that the impeachment complaint found sufficient in form and substance against her lacked evidence and seemed aimed at maximizing "the political spectacle."
Lawyer Carlo Cruz, Sereno's spokesperson, said this in a statement after the House of Representatives justice committee gave due course to the complaint filed by lawyer Lorenzo Gadon while dismissing the case filed by the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption and Vanguard of the Philippine Constitution Inc.
Cruz said Sereno's camp disagreed with the House panel's move, saying "many of the allegations in the Gadon complaint are unsupported by evidence or rely mainly on hearsay consisting of newspaper clippings."
He again belied Gadon's charges against Sereno, including allegedly being dishonest in declaring her net worth, asserting that the magistrate "has always lived a modest, God-fearing lifestyle."
"None of the allegations rises to an impeachable offense. The complaint against her seems designed to maximize the political spectacle, with the goal of eroding her credibility through innuendo and malicious allegations," said Cruz, a veteran lawyer just named as Sereno's impeachment spokesperson.
"This is detrimental to the independence of the judiciary upon whom all citizens rely to defend their rights and to check any abuse," he added.
Still, Sereno would consider appearing before the House committee, Cruz said separately in an interview on ANC.
"As far as I know, personally she would be willing to cooperate with the House committee in this regard. I am certain that the Chief Justice will be most willing to have an opportunity to establish her case in the proper identity, proper proceeding," Cruz said.
The House justice committee on Wednesday found the impeachment complaint Gadon filed against Sereno to be sufficient in form and substance. Sereno has 10 days to respond.
Gadon's complaint alleges that Sereno had committed culpable violation of the Constitution, betrayal of public trust, corruption, and other high crimes for allegedly lying in her statement of assets, liabilities and net worth, falsification of High Court documents, delayed court action, alleged use of judiciary funds for a P5-million vehicle, and luxury travels, among others.
Umali said it was Sereno's call whether or not to attend the proceedings, but he added that it would be beneficial.
"If she wants to face her accusers, really it would be beneficial for her to appear; but of course her answer would be sufficient for purposes of joining the issues and conducting the proceedings towards the determination of probable cause," he told ANC.