Sereno impeachment: House committee tackles controversial car

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Maria Lourdes P.A. Sereno
File photo of Supreme Court Chief Justice Maria Lourdes P.A. Sereno -- PHILSTAR

THE HEAD of the Supreme Court’s (SC) procurement office yesterday said they asked the “end-user” for preference in a vehicle purchase, which has been cited as one of the grounds for the impeachment case filed against Chief Justice Maria Lourdes P.A. Sereno.

We had to ask the office of the end-user what vehicle she would prefer in the event that we would procure a vehicle. So it was them who said Land Cruiser po,” lawyer Ma. Carina M. Cunanan of the SC procurement office said during the continuation of the House committee on justice’s proceedings on the impeachment case on Jan. 17.

Ms. Cunanan added that her office conducted a market research to find out the cost of the Land Cruiser to be indicated in the procurement plan.

However, lawyer Thelma C. Bahia, chief of the SC’s Fiscal Management and Budget Office, clarified that the brand was not specified in posting the procurement notice.

Complainant Lorenzo G. Gadon has accused the chief justice of, among others, of committing corruption in the procurement of a Toyota Land Cruiser-2017 worth P5.1 million.

Mr. Gadon said: “The initiatory document, the first endorsement clearly states Toyota Land Cruiser, even the color pearl white, even the engine displacement and the amount. It’s attached in the records, your honor.”

Majority Floor Leader Rodolfo C. Fariñas noted that having a preferred brand in the procurement is a violation of the procurement laws. Section 18 of Republic Act 9198 or the Philippine Government Procurement Law prohibits preference to brand names.

The camp of Ms. Sereno, meanwhile, reiterated in a statement that the SC en banc approved the acquisition under a resolution dated March 28, 2017 in Administrative Matter (AM) No. 17-03-06-SC.

One of Ms. Sereno’s spokespersons, Jojo Lacanilao, added that the Land Cruiser purchase was the first time that the chief justice requested for a new vehicle since she was appointed in 2010, and that “[s]he had always used vehicles inherited from other Justices or court employees.” — Minde Nyl R. dela Cruz