MANILA - President Rodrigo Duterte is not behind the impeachment complaint filed by the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption against Supreme Court Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, the VACC's president said Tuesday.
Asked in an interview with ANC's Headstart if Duterte is behind the complaint, VACC Chair Dante Jimenez told anchor Karen Davila: "Wala, Karen."
Jimenez also took issue with political analyst Ramon Casiple's observation that the VACC is identified with PDP-Laban, Duterte's political party.
"The only connection namin ni Presidente Duterte was the advocacy against crime, illegal drugs, and corruption. So please, refrain from doing that, Professor Casiple, because we are not a political unit," Jimenez said.
Duterte previously criticized an unidentified government official for supposedly riding first class when travelling abroad and booking suites for accommodation.
While he mentioned no names, Duterte hinted that the official was not from the executive department.
During the interview, Jimenez said the impeachment complaint also cites Sereno's alleged lavish travel expenses with her staff using the Supreme Court money.
"She practically allows her staff to be in the business class travel, mga ticket. That will be produced consequently during the trial," the VACC chairman said.
"Let’s face it, these are very serious violations of the Constitution," he added.
Jimenez said although the group had also filed an impeachment complaint against former President Joseph Estrada, it was the first time they are filing one against a chief justice "because we have respect sa Supreme Court," which he called "the last bastion of democracy."
"We filed it because of Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno’s culpable violation of the Constitution, betrayal of public trust," he said.
The VACC complaint alleged Sereno violated the Constitution in issuing an administrative order creating the new Judiciary Decentralized Office (JDO) and reopening the Regional Administration Office (RCAO) in Western Visayas "in the absence of an authorization from the court en banc."
Jimenez said their complaint comes with documents provided by the Supreme Court, but he is not speculating on the justices' motive for approving its release.
"I don’t know about their motive. I can only speak for myself. You ask Atty. Te," he said referring to the high court's spokesperson, Atty. Theodore Te.
The group also alleges Sereno betrayed public trust when she hired Atty. Solomon Lumba, a faculty member of the University of the Philippines (UP) College of Law, as her staff head. Jimenez said there are 3 other similar cases committed by Sereno.
This supposedly violates the constitutional provision that appointive government officials shall not hold another public post unless provided for by law.
Jimenez said proof of the employees' dual salaries from government can be produced or subpoenaed by the House of Representatives
"They will act as prosecutors...Impeachment court will be composed by senators. What we did as taxpayers and corruption NGO is file this. That’s our right," he said.
Although filed as early as August 15, the VACC complaint was the second impeachment complaint to be endorsed against Sereno, after the complaint of lawyer Lorenzo Gadon was endorsed by 25 congressmen last week.
Gadon's complaint focuses on Sereno's Statement of Assets, Liabilities, and Net Worth (SALNs), which Gadon claimed were not truthful like the case of impeached Chief Justice Renato Corona.
Jimenez said impeaching Sereno is necessary "as far as the judicial system is concerned because that is just one sector."
"Remember, the President, although he is the President of the country, has no control over the judicairy and the legislative. I think that is public knowledge, that this is undebatable," he said.
"We’ve been very critical of the judicial system. How many convictions have they done in a year? Account them. Who can account these justices? I think it’s high time now," he added.