By Ellson Quismorio
House Justice Committee chairman Reynaldo Umali rebuked lawyer Larry Gadon anew for his lackluster presentation of the impeachment case he filed against Supreme Court (SC) Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno.
During the Justice panel hearings Tuesday, the congressman from Oriental Mindoro matter-of-factly said in the presence of Gadon that the latter lacked personal knowledge on the details of his complaint.
“We know that you don’t have personal knowledge on practically all allegations,” Umali said, adding that the complainant has merely been relying on “secondhand information.”
Gadon, who filed the verified complaint against the Chief Justice last August, had no response to this stinging observation from the Justice Committee chairman.
The lawyer, a known supporter of President Rodrigo Duterte, is accusing Sereno of culpable violation of the Constitution, betrayal of public trust, corruption, and other high crimes for her alleged litany of lapses including untruthful declaration of her wealth.
Gadon has listed at least 27 allegations in connection with these grounds. The panel is currently determining the presence of probable cause in Gadon’s ouster complaint.
On Monday, Umali also scolded Gadon for suggesting that it is the congressmen’s task to do the dirty work for his case after the lawyer failed to present any piece of evidence to the panel.
As a result, Umali has been left with no choice but to issue invites and subpoenas to resources persons and documents that will ultimately help build Gadon’s case.
“You’re turning us into your own (private) investigators. Having said that, we’re not saying that it’s not our duty [but] you should do your homework, too,” Umali told the lawyer.
For an impeachment case to prosper, the complaint must either have personal knowledge of his or her allegations or have them backed by authentic records.
If and when the Justice Committee finds probable cause in the Gadon complaint, the panel will form the articles of impeachment which the Senate Impeachment Court will use as basis in removing Sereno.
Meanwhile, opposition solon, Albay 1st district Rep. Edcel Lagman had a harsher opinion of Gadon and his impeachment rap.
“It seems that the credibility of Gadon has been shattered because, first, he has no personal knowledge of the major allegations he averred in his complaint. And second, he lacks support from authentic documents. Presently, based on the complaint, it has no chance at all to prosper in the Senate,” Lagman said in a press conference Tuesday.
He went on to warn the SC magistrates invited to appear before the committee from exposing their disagreements–personal or otherwise– with each other to the public in the course of the House hearings..
“For those in the High Court, exposing their squabbles and in a way, washing dirty linen before the public is not commendable for an institution which is called upon to be sober and to play the role of arbiter when the two co-equal departments fail,” he said.
Sereno was appointed Chief Justice in 2012, or after spending just two years as Associate Justice. She took the top SC position at 52, and bypassed more senior justices in the process.
Since the 1987 Constitution sets the compulsory age of retirement for the Chief Justice to 70 years old, this means Sereno could stay in her post until 2030.
“Even granting that there were deficiencies on the part of the Chief Justice which will be revealed by the witnesses from the SC, will these deficiencies be tantamount to culpable violation of the Constitution and other impeachable offenses? I doubt very much,” Lagman said.
“Differences between members of the High Court should not be a viable ground for impeachment,” he stressed.
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