The television series “House of Cards” which starred Oscar-winning actor Kevin Spacey had many local viewers. But after allegations of sexual misconduct, Spacey was replaced by the producers in the lead role of a fictional US president who used guile and double dealing. Like the fictional President Frank Underwood’s White House of cards collapsed, so did Spacey’s acting career.
But the lower chamber probing Supreme Court Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno of impeachable offenses is proving it is not a House of Cads. The House justice committee ruled that Sereno’s lawyers cannot speak for her because they are not the accused who skipped the hearing. But after dismissing Sereno’s four-man legal team, members of the justice panel themselves turned out to be the ones who subjected lawyer complainant Lorenzo Gadon to intense cross examination often impugning the integrity of his allegations against the chief magistrate.
The justice committee hearing was in effect a dress rehearsal for the trial in the Senate where congressmen appointed will serve as prosecutors. The hard questions were asked of Gadon, presumably to prepare him for the cross examination of senators sympathetic to Sereno. As it is there are at least six senators—Risa Hontiveros, Antonio Trillanes, Bam Aquino, Grace Poe, Kiko Pangilinan and Franklin Drilon whose vote might go in favor of acquitting Sereno. With 19 senators, six of them opposition members, it would take at least 16 votes to convict Sereno The battle then is how to win at least three senators to the majority to convict. Who among the six Liberal Party senators will be the turncoat?
It took 20 senators out of the 23 to convict the late former Chief Justice Renato Corona with Senator Bongbong Marcos, the late Senators Miriam Defensor Santiago and Joker Arroyo dissenting to acquit.
This was my impression of the proceedings covered live on television by ANC.
The word cad is defined in the Merriam Webster dictionary as men who behave boorish against women. The impeachment case against the chief magistrate of course has nothing to with gentlemanly behavior. It is a legal political process and a numbers game of which the administration’s supermajority has plenty of.
Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez should just follow the lead of former Speaker Manny Villar who after the opening prayer, banged the gavel signaling the House session open. He then immediately said the impeachment case against former President Joseph Estrada is hereby forwarded to the Senate.
Sereno skipped the House hearing last Wednesday after Speaker Pantaleon said the legal counsels cannot speak for her as they are not the accused. The House explained it is giving Sereno the opportunity to cross examine her accuser, lawyer Larry Gadon. But who is Gadon? Nobody has heard of him until he lodged the impeachment complaint against the chief magistrate.
In Wednesday’s lengthy House justice committee hearing, it was chief complainant Gadon who was on the dock defending his allegations against Sereno that she committed impeachable offenses including betrayal of public, not declaring her true Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth, and abuse of authority.
In one instance, a committee member asked why it was them and not Gadon who were being made to substantiate the charges against Sereno.
For example, the panel sought answers from Gadon if he had personal knowledge of his allegation Sereno manipulated the outcome of the Judicial Bar Council in excluding SC nominee Francis Jardeleza, the former solicitor general.who later managed to become SC associate justice.
Gadon replied that his information was culled mostly from newspaper reports and sources inside the Supreme Court. This infuriated members of the justice panel that Gadon’s allegation was weak on this count. Justice committee chairman Reynaldo Umali who was the congressional member of the JBC was aghast by Gadon’s allegations that Sereno was able to manipulate all seven members of the JBC collegial panel into voting against Jardeleza.
Gadon also appeared to be ambivalent on the dates and amount in his allegations Sereno submitted a false SALN and did not include her income when she was a University of the Philippines professor.
In Wednesday’s House justice committee hearing of the impeachment case against the Chief Justice, it was accuser Gadon who was taken to task by committee members who felt they were being used to substantiate Gadon’s case against Sereno. He was hard put in explaining his claim that Sereno manipulated the Judicial Bar Council to exclude from the short list then SC justice nominee Francis Jardeleza.
Gadon was asked how he came to the conclusion that Sereno was able to manipulate the seven-man JBC. As it turned out, Sereno merely invoked the JBC rule of unanimity in approving a nominee to the Supreme Court.
Congressmen Romeo Acop, Gwendolyn Garcia put Gadon to task for not being able to substantiate his complaint that Sereno was “ capricious and whimsical” in excluding Jardeleza from the short list of nominees for an associate justice position.
Gadon was asked if it is his conclusion that the rest of JBC members allowed themselves to be manipulated by Sereno as head of the JBC, a collegial body which included a member of Congress. Umali, then a JBC member, felt offended that in effect, as alleged by Gadon, the seven other JBC members allowed themselves to be “manipulated.”
Antipolo Rep. Romeo Acop cited a JBC rule that a member can invoke the clause of unanimity in determining the fitness of a nominee to the high court.