House panel declares Gadon complaint sufficient in form, substance

MANILA — The House committee on justice on Wednesday found the impeachment complaint filed by lawyer Larry Gadon against Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno as sufficient both in form and substance.

A total of 30 lawmakers voted that the Gadon complaint was sufficient in form, while only four lawmakers voted against it.

Similarly, 30 House members stood in favor of the motion finding the complaint sufficient in substance. Four lawmakers rejected it.

In determining sufficiency in form, the complaint filed by a citizen must be endorsed by an incumbent congressman and must also be verified. The aspect of verification requires that the complainant has personal knowledge or that the allegations made are supported by authentic documents.

The requirement of substance, on the other hand, is met if there is a recital of facts constituting of the offenses charged and determinative of the jurisdiction of the committee.

House justice committee chair Reynaldo Umali stressed that impeachment proceedings are political in nature and the standard of individual appreciation of each committee member in determining if the complaint’s sufficiency in substance is followed.

The impeachment process is a democratic one, and the will of the majority shall always prevail,Umali said.

Impeachment is the most formidable weapon in the arsenal of democracy. We will not hesitate to wield this weapon if our democratic institutions are in danger,he added.

Bayan Muna Partylist Rep. Carlos Zarate said the Gadon complaint is insufficient in form as he noted that the allegations made are based on newspaper clippings which could be deduced as pure hearsay.

Dinagat Islands Rep. Kaka Bag-ao echoed Zarate’s remark, reiterating that secondary sources will not constitute personal knowledge and are therefore considered hearsay.

Umali, however, stressed that some of the allegations may be substantiated by authentic documents.

Gadon has attached originally certified true copies of documents requested from the Supreme Court to support his allegations made against Sereno.

One of the requirements for verification is that information must be culled from authentic documents. He may not have any personal knowledge, but judicial knowledge can be taken as fact, Umali said.

Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, in disputing the complaint’s substance, said the totality of the entire complaint will not satisfy the stringent requirements of the sufficiency in substance.

Gadon’s complaint, which was endorsed by 25 House members, accused Sereno of culpable violation of the Constitution, corruption, other high crimes and betrayal of public trust.

Gadon stated that Sereno did not declare in her Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth (SALN) the exorbitant lawyer’s fees of USD 745,000 or PHP37 million which she received from the Philippine government.

Gadon said the issue of SALN declaration is the strongest case presented against the chief justice.

The complaint alleged that Sereno committed corruption when she, among other things, used public funds to: finance her extravagant and lavish lifestyle by ordering the purchase of a brand-new luxurious Toyota Land Cruiser 2017 model as her personal vehicle, amounting to more than PHP5 million; and stay in opulent hotels when attending conferences in the country and abroad.