MANILA, Philippines – After just an hour of proceedings, the Justice Committee of the House of Representatives found probable cause to impeach Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, Thursday March 8.
Thirty-eight regular and ex-officio members of the committee voted that there is probable cause in the allegations that Sereno committed culpable violation of the Constitution, betrayal of public trust, corruption, and other high crimes.
Only two members, Dinagat Islands Rep. Kaka Bag-ao and Quezon City 6th District Rep. Jose Christopher “Kit” Belmonte, voted against the finding of probable cause in the impeachment complaint.
Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate assailed the “hastily-done” proceeding, saying the committee members did not even specify which allegations have probable cause.
“Sa over eagerness at kakamadali ng majority ng komite na lutuin ang impeachment na ito ay lumalabas na parang overcooked na ito o nasunog na ito kaya hindi na nila alam anong klaseng charges ang pagbobotohan,(In the overeagerness of the majority to cook the impeachment complaint, it turned out to be overcooked or burnt so they no longer knew which charges to vote on.) ” Zarate said in a statement.
“Hindi man lang nila inilatag kung saan may probable cause sa mga allegations laban kay CJ Sereno, (They were not even able to lay down which allegation had probable cause against CJ Sereno.)” he added.
When the manner of voting was raised during the proceeding, committee vice chair Rep. Doy Leachon replied that discussing the 27 allegations one-by-one “would just be a repetition of what have been” tackled in the past 15 probable cause hearings.
Rep. Vincent Crisologo suggested to tackle each allegations, but he later withdrew his motion after Rep. Alfredo Garbin cited the committee rules on impeachment proceedings.
Garbin said the rule “presupposes” that the members “will vote in totality not individually.”
Zarate said this was a violation of Sereno’s right to due process.
“Inuna nila ang botohan na dapat sampahan ng kaso pero di pa nila inilatag kung ano ang depinidong kaso ang isinasampa laban sa kanya. (They voted immediately to file a case when they had not yet laid down what case to file against her.) This is a case of indict you now, then we’ll inform you of what charges later. This is another instance of violation of CJ Sereno’s due process right,” he said.
The progressive solon said the previous committee hearings were also made for complainant Lorenzo Gadon’s “fishing expedition” and to provide an “arena to vilify Sereno, and force her to resign.”
This process has “weakened the Supreme Court as an independent institution,” said Zarate.
House justice committee chair Rep.Reynaldo Umali has tasked the panel vice chairs to craft the articles of impeachment and the final committee report by March 14.
The articles of impeachment and committee report would then be presented before the House plenary for voting.
If the report gets one-third votes of the entire House members, the lower Chamber would then transmit the impeachment complaint to the Senate, which would convene as an impeachment court.
Sereno, meanwhile, renewed her stand that she will not step down from her post.
The top magistrate is on an indefinite leave after some SC justices forced her to do so.
The Office of the Solicitor General had also filed a quo warranto petition to nullify her appointment before the High Court, for allegedly failing to declare in full her wealth when she was a professor in the University of the Philippines College of Law.
Opposition lawmaker Rep. Edcel Lagman said the petition “has long expired under the Rules of Court” because said case should have been filed within one year from the cause of action. (davaotoday.com)