Bulletproof car dictated by death threats — lawyers

  • Written by Jester P. Manalastas
  • Published in Top Stories
  • Read: 524

CHIEF Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno said her decision to buy a Land Cruiser is neither illegal nor
extravagant, adding that for years she had been using a personally-purchased improvised bullet-proof
blanket to protect herself.

In her verified answer submitted to the committee on justice, Sereno pointed out that the Chief
Justice of the Supreme Court, like other high officials of government, is exempted from the prohibition
on acquisition and use of luxury vehicles.
Atty. Larry Gadon, in his impeachment complaint, accused Sereno of graft for  allegedly using
“public funds to finance extravagant and lavish lifestyle by ordering the purchase of a brand-new
luxurious Toyota Land Cruiser 2017 model as her personal vehicle, amounting to P5.1 million.”
But Sereno’s lawyers said the acquisition of the luxury car is necessary as this is her service
vehicle for security reasons and purposes.
They noted that under Section 3.1 of Department of Budget and Management (DBM) Administrative
Order  No. 233 (a rule issued by the Executive Department in 2008, long before the Chief Justice was
appointed to the Supreme Court), the purchase of a service vehicle for security reasons for the Chief
Justice is  allowed.
The President, Senate President and Speaker of the House of Representatives are also covered by
the exemption.
“The Chief Justice did not ask to be exempted from the prohibition against the acquisition and
use of luxury security vehicles by government officials, as she was already exempted by virtue of her
position,” the verified answer said.
“The Land Cruiser was purchased to ensure the safety and security of the Chief Justice and not
because she took a fancy for a luxurious sports utility vehicle,” the answer read.
The lawyers further explained that because of threats to Sereno’s personal security, she has no
choice but to acquire a vehicle that could be bulletproofed.
According to the lawyers, since her appointment as Chief Justice, Sereno did not ask for a new
or luxury vehicle but instead she improvised.
“She hung a personally-purchased bullet proof blanket on one side of the interior of the Hyundai
Starex van that was handed down to her. She also covers her back seat with a bullet-proof vest which her
husband had given to her as a gift,” the answer said.
“This continues to be her vehicle security upgrade at personal cost until today. This can hardly
be characterized as an extravagant lifestyle,”  her lawyers added.
Therefore, the lawyers said Sereno cannot be impeached for the purchase of the Land Cruiser
because the acquisition was legal and in order.