The House Committee on Justice, voting 25-2 found sufficient grounds to impeach Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno.
The impeachment complaint filed by lawyer Larry Gadon, accuses the Chief Justice of culpable violation of the Constitution, corruption, other high crimes and betrayal of public trust. The committee found the complaint sufficient in form and substance on Sept. 13. It will next determine if there is probable cause to impeach Chief Justice Sereno. Atty. Gadon will be asked to support his allegations through evidence and witnesses.
"The chair hereby declares… that the complaint alleges sufficient grounds for impeachment," House Justice Committee Chairman Reynaldo Umali said. *
|Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno (photo credit to Manila Times)|
At least a third of the members of the House- 98 of 292 members- vote is needed to approve the committee report, this will then constitute the Articles of Impeachment and the chief justice is impeached.
The Articles of Impeachment will be transmitted to the Senate, which will try the case as an impeachment court.
Atty. Gadon said Sereno violated the Constitution when she falsified orders and resolutions of the high court, misdeclared her wealth in her Statement of Assets, Liabilities, and Net worth (SALN), and manipulated the Judicial Bar Council, among others.
It added Sereno is a corrupt public official and "used public funds to finance her extravagant and lavish lifestyle," citing the purchase of a P5-M Toyota Land Cruiser 2017 for her personal use.
She is also accused of using government funds to stay in luxurious hotels and bring a "huge entourage of lawyers in her supposed official foreign trips."
Sereno committed other high crimes, the complaint read, when she ordered Muntinlupa judges not to issue arrest warrants against Senator Leila de Lima, who is now detained over drug charges. She also ordered Court of Appeals justices to question the Lower House's processes before the high court, the complaint said, on top of not paying appropriate taxes and lying in her application for the judiciary by overstating her credentials. *
Finally, the complaint said the Chief Justice betrayed public trust when she "attacked" several pronouncements of President Rodrigo Duterte - including the declaration of martial law in Mindanao - and appointed officials without the approval of the Supreme Court en banc.
The House will apply the same rule that was used when then Chief Justice Renato Corona was impeached last 2011.
"[T]here is need for clarification and this is the reason why we are now at the level of determining whether there is sufficient ground not only for purposes of impeachment but to conduct further hearing as provided under our rules," he said before the committee voted.
He said the House panel will apply the "totality rule", suggesting the complaint should be evaluated as a whole and not by particular allegations.
"Again, we apply the totality rule," he said, referencing the impeachment of Chief Justice Renato Corona in 2011.
"In fact, we did not go through the whole eight articles, we just limited ourselves to about two or three and we got the former chief justice convicted on just one ground," Umali said.
House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez made a public statement that the super majority aligned with the administration has more than enough numbers to send the impeachment complaint directly to the Senate. *
"I want to be fair, and before we bring it there... before it is transmitted to the impeachment court, we have to be sure that the evidence will stand trial in an impeachment court,” he said in Filipino in a televised interview last month.
Reports from cnnphilippines & philstar