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CJ Sereno: ‘Ang referee na nakikisuntok’

opinion / Columnists
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Sisyphus’ Lament

CJ Sereno: ‘Ang referee na nakikisuntok’

SINGAPORE — Imagine a policeman accuses you of being a drug addict. Then she files charges and prosecutes you. Then she takes the witness stand against you. Then the same person walks to the judge’s bench and rules you are guilty.

A biased judge fundamentally violates Article III, Section 2 of our Constitution: “No person shall be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law.”

But if it is the Chief Justice, it is perfectly constitutional, insists Prof. Carlo Cruz, Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno’s impeachment spokesman, in his letter last Oct. 10.

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Cruz claims my column “Sereno admits guilt in impeachment charge” (10/2/17) is misleading, and citing the 2014 Jardeleza v. Sereno decision is sensationalism.

I cited facts — not opinion — documented in the majority decision and admitted by Cruz.

In 2014, the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) was to nominate Francis Jardeleza to the Supreme Court. Sereno — while chairing the JBC — charged him with lack of integrity. Jardeleza was asked to respond on the spot, and not even given written charges.

Sereno — already complainant, prosecutor and star witness — then ruled on the charges she pushed. She even invoked a rule that required a unanimous JBC vote, giving herself a unilateral veto.

The referee won by knockout!

A lowly prosecutor or judge would be punished for violating the Constitution. Even a small employer or high school teacher would be punished. But when it is the Chief Justice, Cruz applauds her integrity.

Cruz even claims I misquote the Jardeleza decision. In his revisionism, this decision praises Sereno’s “zeal.”

But it reads: “The Court notes the zeal shown by the Chief Justice regarding international cases, given her participation in the Piatco case and the Belgian Dredging case. Her efforts in the determination of Jardeleza’s professional background, while commendable, have not produced a patent demonstration of a connection between the act complained of and his integrity as a person.”

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Either the decision said Sereno was dead wrong, or Cruz also claims Ned Stark was the most cunning player of “Game of Thrones.”

Finally, Cruz obfuscates the Jardeleza decision never ruled that Sereno acted in bad faith. But due process is about process, not intentions or results. A referee may not throw punches then argue she had good intentions. The point is the decision documents as fact how she threw punches.

Sadly, some portray a mere personal squabble, disbelieving Sereno chaired a constitutional body. Some argue the JBC acted as a collegial body. But only Sereno accused Jardeleza then voted on her own charges.

Sereno’s defense should stop glossing over the two actual Supreme Court decisions cited by the impeachment charges. My fellow columnist Joel Butuyan wrote on the other — the 2016 Aguinaldo decision — on possible “consistent, sustained, and systematic usurpation of the powers of the Supreme Court by the Chief Justice.”

Finally, Sereno explained her Piatco income, but not all other income. Thus, one cannot fact check her 2010 SALN (statement of assets, liabilities and net worth).

Her defense states she earned P30.3 million in Piatco fees in 2004-2008. She broke down: P8.67 million, taxes; P8.76 million, house, car and stocks (in SALN); P2.30 million, parents’ medical/funeral expenses; and P3.64 million, “tithes and offerings.” The remaining P6.93 million was living expenses of P115,500/month.

But she earned P3 million from other sources (P50,000/month). And she did not disclose her husband’s income. The claimed living expenses are thus understated.

To fact check her 2010 SALN, we need her 2003-2006 SALNs (as full time University of the Philippines professor) and 2007-2010 tax returns. Can Cruz just show these?

If a referee punched Manny Pacquiao in the middle of a boxing match, we would riot in the streets. But when Sereno throws punches as referee, we stand unwoke. Cruz even brazenly misquotes a Supreme Court decision, then with all impunity, turns around and publicly accuses me of the misquoting.

The simple issue Cruz ducks is: How can we trust any ring Sereno referees?

React: oscarfranklin.tan@yahoo.com.ph, Twitter @oscarfbtan, facebook.com/OscarFranklinTan.

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TAGS: Carlo Cruz, Francis Jardeleza, judicial and bar council, Maria Lourdes Sereno, Oscar Franklin Tan, Sereno impeachment, Sisyphus’ Lament
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