House committee subpoenas Ombudsman for Sereno SALN

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Hearing at the House of Representatives on the impeachment complaint against Chief Justice Lourdes Sereno. Photographed by BERNARD TESTA, News5 | InterAksyon

MANILA – The House Justice Committee on Monday issued a subpoena to the Office of Ombudsman to submit the statement of assets, liabilities, and net worth (SALN) of Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno during her time as a professor at the University of the Philippines (UP).

The summons came after it was revealed by Angela Escoto, who heads the University of the Philippines Human Resources Development Office (HRDO) that her office only found the 2002 copy of Sereno’s SALN when they were asked to submit the records from 2000 to 2009.

The subpoena was to require UP to provide us the SALN from ’01 to ’09, and probably to explain why there apparently exists no record on the file of Chief Justice Sereno, said Oriental Mindoro Rep. Reynaldo Umali, who chairs the House justice committee during the hearing on the impeachment complaint filed by lawyer Larry Gadon.

“Let the subpoena duces tecum be issued to the Office of the Ombudsman to produce the SALNs of Chief Justice Sereno from that period stated, 2001 up to 2009,” he added.

When lawmakers asked Escoto if the missing records meant Sereno did not file her SALN during the said period, Escoto explained she could not say definitively because she was not the head of the HRDO at the time.

She also added that the chief justice might have submitted her SALN directly to Ombudsman at that time.

However, Escoto also pointed out that the common practice, based on her own experience, was that UP employees submit their SALN to UP’s human resources office. The office, in turn, submits the documents to the Office of the Ombudsman.

Lawmakers then raised that UP HRDO’s transmittal letters which included the list of SALNs of UP employees to the Ombudsman could be an indication if Sereno had complied with submitting a yearly SALN when she was a professor.

But Escoto, who headed the UP office since 2007, said she was not in possession of the letters in question because she was not the head of UP HRDO at the time.

The House panel also directed the previous UP HRDO head to produce “relevant records” for the impeachment committee, including the UP HRDO’s transmittal letters to the Ombudsman regarding the SALN of UP employees.

Based on the service records presented by UP HRDO, Sereno started to work for the university in 1986 and earned a permanent position as associate professor in 2001, until 2006 when she resigned.

Gadon accused Sereno of failing to declare earnings worth $745,000 or P37 million in her SALN when she served as a government counsel in the case with the Philippine International Air Terminals Co. Inc. (PIATCO) before an international court in 2003.

In the previous hearing, Gadon requested the House panel to subpoena the SALN of Sereno when she joined UP as a professor.