The case is crumbling.
As the Justice Committee of the House of Representatives (HOR) continued its proceedings with regard to the impeachment complaint filed by Atty. Larry Gadon against Supreme Court Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, it appears that the case is falling apart in its entirety.
This conclusion can be drawn from the fact that the complainant failed to produce an iota of evidence to establish at least a probable cause that Sereno may be guilty of an impeachable offense that she is being accused of.
Probable cause is defined as a sufficient ground to engender a well-grounded belief that a crime, infraction or violation has been committed and that the accused, defendant or respondent is probably guilty thereof and should be held for trial. In establishing probable cause, it is not yet required for the complainant to present evidence that will prove without doubt that the respondent is guilty of the accusations against her. A mere probability that she is liable is enough to submit the case for a full-blown trial where the respondent will be adjudged guilty or not.
However, in the hearings of the Justice Committee, complainant Gadon miserably failed to produce any credible or convincing proof to support his allegations in the complaint or, at the minimum, to establish probable cause that can justify the referral of the impeachment complaint to the Senate for trial.
Gadon was bluntly told to do his homework and submit evidence to prove his causes of action. Furthermore, he was directed to present his own evidence and not merely rely on the subpoena powers of the Justice Committee in order to fish for evidence against Sereno. This is a virtual slap in the face of the controversial lawyer who admitted in previous hearings that he has no personal knowledge of the content or substance of the complaint that he filed.
His admission of lack of actual and personal knowledge made Gadon susceptible to a perjury charge as correctly pointed out by the former Dean of the Ateneo School of Government, Antonio “Tony” La Vina. (Please read “Dean: Complainant Against Chief Justice Committed Perjury”)
Aside from being forced to admit lack of personal knowledge, Gadon suffered another setback as two personalities that he claimed can personally attest and testify to prove one of the grounds in the complaint have already denied that they were the source of Gadon’s information.
Supreme Court Associate Justice Teresita de Castro was the first one who made a denial via a press statement on the same day that Gadon dragged her name. De Castro said that he never made any disclosure of any matters that are subject of the internal proceedings of the high court to Gadon or to Jonas Canlas, a journalist who was also cited by Gadon as to whom de Castro confided such information.
Yesterday, Canlas also made it on record that he did not reveal to Gadon that his source in one of his The Manila Times news items was de Castro.
During the previous hearings, Gadon had claimed that De Castro confirmed to Canlas that she contested the temporary restraining order (TRO) issued by Sereno on behalf of the SC on May 29, 2013, accusing the chief magistrate of omitting her recommendation to stop the disqualification of the Senior Citizens party-list only, and not the party-list proclamation itself.
After the denial of Canlas, Gadon made a sudden turnaround and told the Justice Committee that he cannot really recall if Canlas had indeed given him the information.
“I really cannot remember because there are a lot of people giving me information,” was Gadon’s pathetic excuse.
With Gadon’s double whammy in the House, it is reasonable to expect that the Justice Committee will dismiss outright his baseless and unmeritorious complaint against the chief justice.
Unfortunately, with the members of the committee having bias and prejudice against the top magistrate of the land, it is likely that the Justice Committee, with or without probable cause and in shameless mockery and abuse of its powers under the constitution, will eventually submit the articles of impeachment to the Senate for trial.
Let’s check some of the congressman’s disposition regarding this case.
Gadon was forced to admit that he has no personal knowledge of the material allegations in his complaint which is an affront to Congress hearing the case. In return, Oriental Mindoro Representative Rey Umali threatens the chief justice with arrest.
Gadon was caught lying and committed the crime of perjury in the process. But the committee, instead of penalizing the lawyer, and acting on separate motions of Cebu Rep. Gwen Garcia and Partylist Rep. Marco Marcoleta, issued a show-cause order against the two lawyers of Sereno and a CHR commissioner allegedly for making statements that put the House in a bad light.
Before this, the members of the Justice Committee, with the exceptions of few principled representatives, voted to deny the lawyers of the chief justice the right to cross-examine the complaint and the witnesses against her in gross violation of Sereno’s constitutional rights to confront her accusers, to defend herself and her right to due process of law.
Thus, despite Gadon making a fool of himself in public in an apparent case of self-destruction, the lower house, taking the cue from the Speaker of the House and no less than President Rodrigo Duterte, is hell-bent on impeaching Sereno.
The lawyers of the Chief Justice, legal luminaries in their own right, know this. Thus, they call on the Justice Committee to stop the political zarzuela and bring the case to the Senate.
Unless there is a major and uncontrollable backlash against the lower house and its puppet master in the palace, there is no stopping the impeachment train against the chief justice.
It is in the Senate where the real fight begins.