BEYOND the shadow of a doubt, Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno didn’t file her statement of assets, liabilities, and net worth (SALN) for at least eight years when she was in government service. Not only the Constitution but the Administrative Code of 1987 as well as Republic Act 6713 requires all government employees, including those in state universities, to file such statements annually.
The penalty for failure to file such SALN is punishable by imprisonment not more than five years.
Can’t she see that with such demonstrated disdain for the Constitution and our laws, she cannot be in her post for a minute longer? She should spare the Supreme Court and our nation from suffering her insult to our rule of law.
She should try to find it in her conscience to realize that it is an embarrassment for the nation to continue to have a Chief Justice who has wantonly violated the Constitution.
• Three officials of University of the Philippines, the state university where Sereno had worked as a legal researcher and instructor, testified before the House committee on justice in November 2017 that it doesn’t have copies, nor receipts of submissions, of the Chief Justice’s SALN from 2001 to 2009, except for the year 2002, or for eight years.
• The office charged with keeping such records of the Ombudsman (to which Sereno was required to submit her SALNs) on December 4, 2017 issued a certification that they received no such documents from the Chief Justice for the years 1999 to 2007 and 2009. Strangely, she filed her SALN for 1998 only five years later, on December 16, 2003.
Not even copies
Just like an individual’s income tax returns—a copy of which the filer retains—stamped “received” by the BIR office, state officials have their copies of the SALNs they submit with receipt stamps to assure themselves that the documents they have submitted won’t be “lost” by a careless clerk or worse, by a somebody out to frame him or her.
Sereno cannot produce any such copies of her SALNs for those eight years. It is unbelievable, especially for a lawyer, that she didn’t even bother to have copies of the SALNs she submitted to government.
What more proof does one need to conclude that she failed to comply with the SALN requirement?
In fact, Sereno has not even claimed that she submitted her SALNs for those years. Her very lame excuse is that one must assume she did since the UP gave her in September 2011 a certificate of clearance for all “academic/administrative responsibilities,” which she says includes the SALN-submission requirements.
That claim is so stupid, and preposterous.
It is not the UP’s responsibility to collect its staff’s SALNs. The Civil Service Commission and the implementing rules for RA 6713 require that employees of state universities must submit their SALNs to the Deputy Ombudsman, which is the reason why the House justice committee asked that office if they had received Sereno’s SALNs. For Sereno to claim that the UP clearance means she had filed her SALNs to that entity, is like claiming that she had paid her income taxes to the BIR, if ever she didn’t.
Why on earth didn’t she file her SALNs? Did she think that she’ll be an obscure lawyer all her life, and certainly not a Chief Justice, that nobody would investigate if she did or did not file her SALNs? But isn’t that a clear indication of her disrespect for our laws, when the Chief Justice is sworn to strictly uphold all our Republic’s laws?
And the SALNs she did submit, from 2009 to 2016, point to a probably graver violation of the laws, according to lawyer Lorenzo Gadon who has been pursuing the impeachment case against Sereno.
These SALNs did not show any new asset that should have been reported generated from the P37 million fees she got as legal assistant in 2003 for the government’s legal panel in its case against the Terminal 3 contractor in the international court of arbitration.
With this damning SALN case, Sereno should quit and spare the Senate, and us taxpayers, from wasting our time and money in having to go through an impeachment trial.
The SALN issue is just one of 24 charges being investigated by the House committee on justice that is preparing the articles of impeachment against her, among them: purchasing an P8 million luxury, bullet-proof car; falsification of Supreme Court orders such as opening a regional court administrative region that didn’t have the high court’s approval; hiring an IT consultant paid P12 million in five years; delaying action on retirement benefits of justices and judges, and even such a petty vindictive action as firing the court psychiatrists who undertook the psychological tests that she flunked.
It is unprecedented, even shocking that six incumbent justices and one who just retired have appeared in the House justice committee hearings to testify against her. No other justice have come to the front to defend her, not even those whom Aquino had appointed.
She can’t even claim that it is President Duterte who wants her out. Francis Jardeleza, President Aquino’s former Solicitor General whom he appointed to the high court in 2014, testified against her, furious that she tried to remove him from the list of nominees to the court.
Sereno doesn’t only have a flawed character. She is patently not qualified in legal experience and wisdom as well as in personality to be our Chief Justice, not even an associate justice. She doesn’t even have the basic social skills to interact with her colleagues in the Supreme Court.
The only reason she became Chief Justice, and even associate justice before that, was that Aquino needed someone in the Supreme Court to champion his clan’s desperate attempt to get P5 billion in compensation for Hacienda Luisita’s being put under agrarian reform.
If only she had put that servility behind her and did her best to be Chief Justice.
She didn’t, and she even quarreled with her colleagues in the court, which I suspect points to one reason why she flunked her psychological tests.
And she has the gall or the nutty illusion to believe that she should be in that highest of posts in the judicial branch of our government until 2030.