House panel zeroes in on Sereno’s SALN, on P30-M fees as govt counsel in Piatco case

November 22, 2017 - 6:27 PM
Lawyers for Chief Justice Sereno stand up to leave the room after the House Justice committee voted to bar them from cross-examining complainants and witnesses in the impeachment case. In their rejoinder to questions on her SALN, the lawyers said: "She earned the fees from services faithfully rendered to the government, not from corruption." PHIL. STAR PHOTO BY BOY SANTOS

MANILA, Philippines – Lawmakers zeroed in on the Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net worth (SALN) of Supreme Court Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno and vowed to scrutinize where the over P30 million she earned as government counsel went.

Appearing at the hearing of the House Justice committee, the impeachment case complainant Lorenzo “Larry” Gadon alleged that Sereno earned around P37 million for serving as counsel in arbitration proceedings in the case with the Philippine International Air Terminals Co. (PIATCO) Inc., the builder of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport-Terminal 3.

In her verified rejoinder filed on October 2, Sereno said she earned approximately P30.3 million in the PIATCO cases, not P37 million as alleged.

“She earned the fees from services faithfully rendered to the government, not from corruption. She declared all the fees received in her income tax returns for 2004 to 2009, and paid the corresponding taxes. Like any other income, these fees were gradually spent over time. The fees also went, in part, to family’s tithes, offerings, living, medical and emergency expenses over the course of five years. All assets and investments bought or acquired from the remainder of these fees are truthfully reflected in her SALNs,” her lawyers said in the rejoinder.

Gadon said that Sereno declared that of the P30 million earnings, around P9 million were paid in taxes. Sereno also declared in her 2010 SALN properties, savings and investments. However, Gadon said “more or less, there is still P14 million missing.”

Sereno was appointed to the SC as Associate Justice in August 2010.

Deputy Speaker Gwendolyn Garcia said Sereno should be able to show where the P30 million earnings went.

“What is the point? The complainant alleges that even though these amounts have been earned, the amounts should have been reflected in the 2010 SALN because that is the meat of this allegation,” she said.

Quoting from Sereno’s rejoinder, Garcia said that of the P30.3 million earnings, around P8 million was paid in taxes.

Of the P21.6 million left, Sereno purportedly spent P14.7 million through the years for the purchase of a lot, vehicle, furniture and fixtures and for various investments.

“There’s P14.7 million claimed in her defense as having been spent through the years, but we don’t see receipts….so, it behooves upon the Chief Justice to not only submit in her defense the SALNs, but receipts and other documents to support her claim that of the P21.6 million, she has spent P14 million,” Garcia said.

“The balance of P6.9 million, she claims, were spent for family and living expenses … at an average of P115,000 a month. I don’t question that, but I’m trying to look for documents that would support these numbers,” she added.