Aguirre willing to testify vs. Sereno

Friday, September 22nd, 2017. Filed under: News Philippine News U.S. News
Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre (MNS Photo)

Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre (MNS Photo)

MANILA – Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre on Friday said that he is willing to testify on the impeachment complaint filed by lawyer Larry Gadon before the House of Representatives against Supreme Court (SC) Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno.

“I will testify if called. If there are stories behind the scenes (on my request to have the Maute cases transferred), I don’t know anything about it,” Aguirre told reporters during a press briefing in DOJ.

One of the grounds Gadon cited in the impeachment complaint was that the Chief Justice allegedly manipulated and thereafter delayed the resolution of A.M. No. 17-06-02-SC (the request of the Secretary of Justice to transfer the Maute cases outside of Mindanao) after realizing that she lost in the voting.

Gadon’s allegation stemmed from Aguirre’s letter request to Sereno to transfer the proceedings of detained Maute members facing rebellion charges to Metro Manila due to security concerns and lack of adequate detention facilities.

Aguirre wrote a letter to Chief Justice Sereno last June to create special courts in Luzon and Visayas to hear the criminal cases to be filed against Maute members.

But the Supreme Court on June 6 instead assigned the Cagayan de Oro Regional Trial Court (RTC) to hear, try and decide all cases and incidents in connection with the Marawi attacks.

Aguirre, however, disagreed with the High Court, insisting that the designated courts are “too near to the Lanaos and Marawi City.”

“I recall the first letter I sent to SC. I had requested the transfer be done, the venue of the cases be done here (in Metro Manila), or Visayas or Luzon,” Aguirre said.

“It (the request) was not granted by the SC when it issued a resolution transferring the venue of the cases from Marawi to Cagayan de Oro and Iligan City,” Aguirre noted.

“I reiterated my request to have the trial transferred to the SICA (Special Intensive Care Area), which is only 200 meters (from Taguig RTC),” Aguirre said.

Aguirre said he filed another letter informing them “of the dangers of Maute fighters who have been known to spring companions from jail.”

“That is why I requested DILG OIC (Catalino) Cuy to create two courtrooms inside the Taguig SICA,” Aguirre explained.

On July 18, the SC announced that it approved the DOJ’s request to have the Maute cases transferred to the Taguig RTC instead of the Cagayan de Oro RTC.

“I think that was the time my letter-motion was granted. If there was any delay, it was because it was not immediately granted because of the transfer to Iligan and Cagayan de Oro,” he said.

Aside from Aguirre, Gadon earlier said that there are five or six sitting SC justices who would testify against Chief Justice Sereno.

On Wednesday, a total of 30 lawmakers voted that the Gadon complaint was sufficient in form while only four voted against 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 the offenses charged and determinative of the jurisdiction of the committee.

House Justice Committee chair Reynaldo Umali said 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.

Umali said Sereno is given a period of 10 calendar days upon receipt to answer the Gadon complaint.

Meanwhile, the camp of Sereno through her spokesperson, Atty. Carlo Cruz, said that the Office of the Chief Justice has officially received the copy of the impeachment complaint filed by Gadon and the Chief Justice has 10 days to respond to the complaint.

“We confirm that the Secretary General of the House Committee on Justice has served a copy of the impeachment complaint to the Office of the Chief Justice. We now have ten days to formally respond to this complaint,” Cruz said in a statement.

“In her answer, she will explain why the complaint must fail. Chief Justice Sereno has always been a staunch defender of the Judiciary and our democracy, and has always exercised utmost competence, integrity, probity, and independence in her official conduct and in the performance of her functions,” he noted.

“The public may rest assured that the Chief Justice remains committed to her duties at the Supreme Court, and continues to pursue the judicial reform agenda even as the impeachment process unfolds,” Cruz said in a statement sent to reporters. (PNA)

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