Nothing ‘irregular’ with Sereno’s Land Cruiser purchase

MANILA — An associate justice of the Supreme Court (SC) on Monday said the acquisition of Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno’s PHP5.1 million luxury vehicle complied with a budget circular allowing the country’s highest officials to purchase a service vehicle over “security reasons.”

During the impeachment hearing of the House justice committee against Sereno, Associate Justice Mariano del Castillo said Administrative Order No. 233 issued by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) prohibits the acquisition and use of luxury vehicles by government officials.

However, Del Castillo noted that the same budget circular provides an exemption for “those used for security reasons and purposes for the President, Vice-President, Senate President, Speaker of the House of Representatives and Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.”

Del Castillo said no other chief justice had availed of a luxury service vehicle.

“To my recollection, Chief Justice Reynato Puno as well as Chief Justice Renato Corona did not avail of this procurement,” he said.

Del Castillo said the purchase of a service vehicle for Sereno had been included in the annual procurement plan since 2014.

Last week, SC Procurement Head Carina Cunanan admitted during the impeachment hearing that the purchase of the luxurious vehicle was already predetermined by Sereno’s office.

House Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas said citing the brand in a bidding process is prohibited under the law.

ABS Partylist Rep. Eugene Michael de Vera said branding violates the procurement law, and thus could be linked to graft and corruption.