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House panel okays Sereno impeachment

By CHARISSA ATIENZA

Voting, 30-4, the House of Committee on Justice yesterday declared the impeachment complaint filed by lawyer Larry Gadon as sufficient in form and substance.

The committee, chaired by Oriental Mindoro Rep. Reynaldo Umali, ruled that the Gadon complaint has been verified and based on authentic records over the strong objections of four lawmakers.

“Many of the allegations are based on authentic documents and this was endorsed by lawmakers,” Umali said.

Majority Leader and Ilocos Norte Rep. Rodolfo Fariñas noted that the Supreme Court itself ordered the release of the certified true copy of the 20 documents on allegations against Sereno as contained in the Gadon complaint.

The panel, however, dismissed the other impeachment complaint filed by the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC) president Dante Jimenez and Philippine Constitution Inc. lawyer Eligio Mallari due to flawed verification.

Earlier, Bayan Muna partylist Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate, Dinagat Island Rep. Kaka Bag-ao, Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman and Akbayan partylist Rep. Tom Villarin said the complaint is insufficient in form, citing that the allegations are “based on newspaper clippings” and are “mere hearsay.”

Bag-ao and Zarate said the complainant accused Sereno of committing culpable violation of the Constitution, but Gadon failed to mention the constitutional provisions which were violated.

Gadon claimed that the Chief Justice purchased a P5.1 million brand-new and high-end 2017 Toyota Land Cruiser with a reported P4 million bulletproofing job, and failed to include in her statement of assets, liabilities and networth (SALN) the “exorbitant lawyer’s fees” amounting to $745,000 or P37 million. Gadon’s complaint was endorsed by at least 25 lawmakers.

Umali said Sereno will be given 10 days to respond to the impeachment filed by Gadon. “That would be more than a week from now,” he said.

Whether or not Sereno files her answer to the complaint, the Umali panel is expected to determine if there is probable cause to impeach her.

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