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Why Sereno was removed

In its May 11, 2018 decision removing Supreme Court Chief Justice Maria Lourdes P.A. Sereno, not only did the Court find Sereno not filing her SALNs. She did not file her SALNs  “properly and promptly.  Said the decision:

“The failure to file a truthful SALN not only puts in doubt the integrity of the officer, but such failure to file a truthful, complete and accurate SALN would likewise amount to dishonesty if the same is attended by malicious intent to conceal the truth or to make false statements.”

The Court noted that the SALNs filed by Sereno covering her years of government service in U.P., “appear to have been executed and filed under suspicious circumstances.”

a. Her  SALN as of Dec. 31, 1996 was accomplished and notarized only on June 29, 1998, or two years late;

b. Her SALN as of Dec. 31, 1998 was filed only in 2003, or five years late;

c. Her SALNs for the years 1997, 1998, 1999 and 2002 were notarized only on August 21, 2003 ;

d. Both the 1996 and 1997 SALNs were subscribed and sworn to by respondent before Zenaida P. Cruz (Administrative Officer IV, Human Resource Development and Records Section, U.P. Law Center) on June 29, 1998. However, under the Notarial Registry of Eugenia A. Borras, four SALNs of respondent were acknowledged before her on August 21, 2003. It appears thus that there were two SALNs for 1997 executed by respondent;

She failed to file her SALNs for 2004, 2005, and 2006 which were the years when she received the bulk of her fees from the PIATCO cases.

Per Sereno’s own admission, she received a total of P30.269 million as government’s lawyer in the PIATCO case: P7.05 million in 2004, P11.53 million in 2005, P2.63 million in 2006, P4.67 million in 2007, P4.07 million in 2008, and P301,552 in 2009.

(e) Her SALN for 2006 was accomplished only on July 27, 2010 and unsubscribed, only to be later on claimed by respondent to have been really intended as SALN as of July 27, 2010;

The decision said, the SALNs that Sereno submitted in support of her application for Chief Justice likewise bear badges of irregularities:

(f) Her SALN for 2009 was not accomplished under oath, was likewise belatedly filed only on June 22, 2012 and indicates therein that she was an Associate Justice of the Court when her appointment came only on August 16, 2010;

(g) Her SALNs for 2006 and 2009 did not reflect the fees she received as counsel for the Republic in the PIATCO cases.

The Bureau of Internal Revenue’s report shows that respondent received from the OSG the total gross amount of P32,494,805.27 as fees from 2004 to 2009 for the PIATCO cases.

The BIR report also shows that she paid the withholding taxes on said fees in the total amount of P4,599,504.71. By mathematical computation, respondent would have had P27,895,300.56 as her net disposable income. This net disposable income was not reflected in respondent’s SALN for 2006 (which she claims to really be her SALN as of July 27, 2010) nor in her SALN as of 2009. Her SALN for 2009 revealed a net worth of only Pl7,936,353.00;

(h) The unaccounted income from the PIATCO cases could not have been due to losses or liabilities considering that respondent have had an increase in her net worth from 2002 to 2009. Her SALN for 2002 shows a net worth of only P3,804,000.00 while her SALN for 2009 shows a net worth of Pl7,936,353.00, her net worth thus increased by P14,132,353.00. While the BIR Report shows that respondent received approximately P27M in disposable net income, her SALN only shows an increase of approximately P14 million in net worth. The difference between the two, in the amount of an estimated P13M, was conspicuously missing in the SALNs filed by respondent;

(i) There is a glaring difference between the two 2010 SALNs filed. The total value of respondent’s personal properties in the “SALN as of July 27, 2010” is P9,000,000.00, while the value of her personal properties as declared in her “SALN as of December 31, 2010” increased to Pl1,723,010. Respondent, therefore, enjoyed an increase of approximately P2,700,000.00 in personal properties in just a span of five (5) months after having been appointed as Associate Justice.

(j) It is contrary to human experience that the SALNs purportedly recovered by respondent’s husband were not stamped received by the UP HRDO. It is unusual that respondent did not bother to demand that her personal copy be duly stamped received with particulars as to the date and initial, at least of the party who received the same as proof that she timely filed her SALN.

(k) There is no indication from the stamped “Certified Photocopy” and initialed by Rosemarie Pabiona on the SALNs that she is the official custodian of the same, and whether the photocopies of the original are on file, contrary to Section 24, Rule 1322 of the Rules of Court.

Said the Court:

“The above circumstances betray respondent’s intention to falsely state a material fact and to practice deception in order to secure for herself the appointment as Chief Justice. It is therefore clear as day that respondent failed not only in complying with the physical act of filing, but also committed dishonesty betraying her lack of integrity, honesty and probity.”

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Topics: Supreme Court , Maria Lourdes P.A. Sereno , Rosemarie Pabiona , SALN
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