Is Chief Justice Sereno a Cersei Lannister?
Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno is more underhanded than Cersei Lannister, Claire Underwood and Lady Macbeth combined, if one believes the impeachment complaints. But few, as usual, read the actual charges before commenting. And no one checks if the footnotes cite evidence.
The 19-page Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption complaint, endorsed by 16 congressmen, makes trivial, incomprehensibly written accusations. It opens weak by claiming Sereno unconstitutionally double appointed a UP Law professor to her Supreme Court staff.
Lawyer Lorenzo Gadon’s 54-page complaint, endorsed by 25 congressmen, is bombastic, calling Sereno “mentally deranged.” Most of its accusations cite no basis. At best, several cite news articles, which the Supreme Court and House reject as evidence.
But two charges, ominously, are based on actual Supreme Court decisions — a million times weightier than sworn affidavits. First, Gadon claims Sereno omitted $745,000 in legal fees from the Piatco case from her tax returns and statement of assets, liabilities and net worth. This charge gravely mirrors her predecessor Renato Corona’s.
But he presents no details. He cites only a 2012 Daily Tribune column by Niñez Cacho Olivares.
Second, Gadon denounces: “Sereno persistently manipulates judicial appointments for personal and political reasons” and “transformed the JBC [Judicial and Bar Council] into a mafia-like organization.”
She tried to block then Solicitor General Francis Jardeleza’s Supreme Court appointment in 2014. She assailed his integrity
before the JBC, which she chairs. JBC rules require a unanimous vote to overrule such a charge. She voted on her own motion, blocking him. And she allegedly violated due process by giving him no chance to respond.
Jardeleza joined the Supreme Court after the acrimonious 2014 Supreme Court decision Jardeleza v. Sereno. He decried his “near death experience” in his 2015 UP Law graduation speech.
Justice Arturo Brion’s concurrence minced no words: “CJ Sereno manipulated the JBC process to exclude Jardeleza as a nominee.” He called her brief “sickening,” “no less than daggers used in a character assassination,” and decried its “level of malice.”
Next, Gadon claims that in 2015, Sereno had the JBC submit nominees for six Sandiganbayan justice positions in six “clusters.” This forced the president to appoint one per cluster, instead of choosing from any nominee. This allegedly favored nominees from Sereno’s staff by “clustering” them with weaker candidates.
The 2016 Supreme Court decision Aguinaldo v. Aquino invalidated this as “utterly without legal basis and in contravention of the President’s appointing power” and “appears to have been done arbitrarily.”
The Supreme Court decision criticized other rules changes: “There appears to be a systematic move by the JBC, under Chief Justice Sereno, to arrogate to itself more power and influence than it is actually granted by the Constitution and this Court, and at the same time, to ease out the Court from any legitimate participation in the nomination process for vacancies in the judiciary, specifically in the Supreme Court.”
Gadon further alleges, without citing basis, that Sereno pushed her staffers in judicial appointments.
He makes more unsupported charges: misrepresenting Supreme Court orders, asking Mandaluyong judges not to issue arrest warrants against Sen. Leila de Lima, withholding pensions of retired octogenarian judges, staying in expensive hotels and flying a “coterie of security” and “clique of relatively new hired lawyers” around on business class, and even fake credentials.
Impeachment is reserved for the gravest sins, but accountability is an everyday matter.
I certainly want to know if my chief justice is gallivanting Cersei-like with Kingsguard and servants, in business class. Travel records so easily refute this that they should simply be released. And I certainly want to know if there is a Game of Thrones in my Supreme Court.
One hopes the charges are refuted with hard evidence instead of political speculation. If they prove baseless, we must hold the endorsing congressmen accountable.
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