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Commentary on the Impeachment case against CJ Maria Lourdes Sereno

Chief Justice Maria Lourdes P. Sereno (CJ Sereno) is the youngest person to the
head the Philippine Judiciary and the first woman to hold such position.1 Her opposition
to the shortcut solution in the Country’s “war on drugs”, which involved summary
execution of suspected drug personalities, have earned the ire of the President and his
party mates in the legislative branch. Hence these legislators have repeatedly
threatened to impeach the Chief Justice, in order to silence one of the most vocal critics
against the culture of killing and impunity. The immovable Magistrate never hesitated to
be vocal against the utter lack of respect for Life and the Law. Such act earned her a
number of impeachment cases, but only one was deemed complete in substance and
Form by the House of Representatives. It was the impeachment Complaint filed by one
Atty. Lorenzo Gadon.

Atty. Gadon filed the impeachment case based on the following grounds: alleged
lavish lifestyle of the Chief Justice and the alleged acts of her undermining the integrity
of the Supreme Court.2

The Law states that The Members of the Supreme Court, The President and the
Vice President, Members of the Constitutional Bodies and the Ombudsman can be
impeached based on six offenses namely: Treason, Bribery, Graft and Corruption,
Other High Crimes3 and Betrayal of Public Trust4.Thus considering the alleged
impeachable acts of the Chief Justice in Gadon’s complaint they will fall on two
categories; Corruption and Betrayal of Public Trust.

The question now is whether the acts of the Chief Justice amounts to the
offenses deemed impeachable. For an act to be deemed impeachable it must be an act
that was deliberately done with malice by the person and so grave that good faith and
mere error in judgement is cannot be used as a valid defence.

In the Corruption allegation, Atty Gadon enumerated the following acts as proof:
Buying of a Bulletproof Toyota Landcruiser luxury SUV, Flying first class in Planes and
Using Expensive Hotel Suites and exclusion of income from a certain case in the SALN.

First of all the Chief Justice did not personally buy the SUV, the Supreme Court
is the one who purchased the vehicle for Justice Sereno’s use. The buying of the SUV
is allowed by the law by virtue of a DBM Circular, which states that the highest ranking
official from the three branches of the government can purchase such vehicle for their
security. Regarding the use of an expensive hotel suite in Palawan, it does not amount
to corruption nor showing of a lavish lifestyle. The suite was used for the meetings of
the Asean Judiciary Conference hosted by the country. The Chief Justice even
negotiated for discount lowering the price for at least 100,000 php (One Hundred
Thousand Philippine pesos). The allegations of lavish lifestyle and corruption
concerning the Plane trips where the Chief Justice was found to be in the Business
Class, while another Justice was in the economy class, is unfounded. The law
specifically provides that the head of the judiciary is allowed to fly in the premium class
of an airline. The evidence even shows that CJ Sereno flew business class, a class
lower than the most premium suite and not the First Class as Gadon’s complaint shows.
In the misdeclaration of SALN allegation, the attorney’s fee is collectible from the
government and was given in an instalment basis thus the contention of the

1
JBC Members. (n.d.). Retrieved December 1, 2017, from Judiciary.gov.ph:
http://jbc.judiciary.gov.ph/index.php/about-the-jbc/jbc-members/58
2
Cupin, B. (2017, October 5). House panel: 'Sufficient grounds' in Sereno impeachment complaint. Retrieved
December 1, 2017, from Rappler: https://www.rappler.com/nation/184357-sereno-impeachment-sufficient-
grounds
3
Article XI, Section 2 of the 1987 Constitution
4
Article IX, Section2 of the 1987 Constitution