MANILA – The spokespersons of Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno in the impeachment case filed against her by lawyer Lorenzo Gadon have stressed that the burden of proof rests with the complainant and not on the respondent. The statement was echoed by Quezon City 6th District Kit Belmonte as the House Committee on Justice ended its first hearing for determination of probable cause on Wednesday.
“Ang trabaho ho natin sa committee is to determine probable cause. ‘Di ba ho? Ang nangyayari ho ay parang tayo ho ang nagtatrabaho para sa kanya para i-build ‘yung ebidensyang kailangan niya (Our work in the committee is to determine probable cause. Isn’t that right? Because what seems to be happening is we’re the ones working to help him build up the evidence he needs),” Belmonte said, referring to his “good friend” Gadon.
The lawmaker continued, “Baka naman ho pwedeng, tutal ikaw naman ang nag-a-allege, ikaw ang nagku-kwan, kayo naman ‘yung mag-provide sa amin. Hindi ‘yung kami nag-ke-case build up para sa ‘yo (Perhaps it would be possible, since you are the one making allegations anyway, you are the one doing it, that you be the one to provide for us. It shouldn’t be us who are doing the case build up for you).”
He added, “Hindi ho ‘yung tayo ‘yung nangangalap ng ebidensya para may kasong solid na dadalhin natin kay Senator Pacquiao sa Supreme Court (We shouldn’t be the ones gathering evidence so that there’s a solid case that we can bring to Senator Pacquiao in the Supreme Court).”
Belmonte raised the issue as the House committee was discussing Gadon’s allegations that Sereno manipulated the shortlist of the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) to exclude then Solicitor General Francis Jardeleza, “for personal and political reasons,” in effect, disgracing him and curtailing the President’s power to appoint him.
Jardeleza was nevertheless appointed Associate Justice on August 20, 2014, according to the Supreme Court’s website.
In an e-mailed statement, Sereno’s spokespersons elaborated on the burden of proof, which they said “can define the duty placed upon a party to prove or disprove a disputed fact, or it can define which party bears this burden.”
They explained, “In criminal cases, the burden of proof is placed on the prosecution, who must demonstrate that the defendant is guilty before a court may convict him.”
In this case, however, “The burden of proof rests with complainant and not on the respondent,” they said.
In another statement, they noted that Gadon had “no personal knowledge” to back his allegation that Sereno committed a culpable violation of the Constitution when she falsified the temporary restraining order of the Supreme Court in G.R. No. 206844-45 (Coalition of Associations of Senior Citizens in the Philippines v. COMELEC).
Associate Justice Teresita Leonardo-de Castro supposedly recommended the issuance of a TRO and sent a draft to Sereno’s office, but the final version that emerged from the CJ was vastly different.
Gadon cited Manila Times reporter Jomar Canlas as his source to boost his claim on the existence of such document, and De Castro as the supposed source of Canlas, only for De Castro to deny through a statement on Wednesday that she ever released any information or document to Canlas.
“The admission of Atty. Gadon that he based his information as relayed by a ‘friend’ whom he identified as a certain Jomar Canlas, is clearly a violation of the hearsay rule. Hearsay is evidence of a statement that was made other than by a witness while testifying at the hearing in question and that is being offered to prove the truth of the matter stated,” Sereno’s spokespersons said in the statement.
“In fact, when Atty. Gadon stated that Associate Justice De Castro relayed the information to Canlas and that Canlas presumably relayed it to him, that should be considered a double hearsay. Thus, Atty. Gadon is even twice removed from the alleged real source of information,” they added.