House panel junks impeach complaint vs. SC justices

MANILA The House of Representatives justice committee on Tuesday dismissed the consolidated impeachment complaint against Supreme Court (SC) Chief Justice Teresita de Castro and six associate justices for insufficiency in substance.

At least 23 members of the committee stood up and found the impeachment complaint insufficient in substance and only one found it sufficient.

The seven consolidated complaints against Chief Justice Teresita Leonardo-de Castro and six members of the Supreme Court are declared by this committee to be insufficient in substance and thereby dismissed, House justice committee chairman Salvador Leachon said.

Aside from de Castro, also facing impeachment raps were Associate Justices Noel Tijam, Andres Reyes Jr., Alexander Gesmundo, Lucas Bersamin, Diosdado Peralta, and Francis Jardeleza for voting in favor of the ouster of former Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno via quo warranto.

The complainants were Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, Ifugao Rep. Teddy Baguilat Jr., and Magdalo Rep. Gary Alejano.

According to House rules, the requirement of substance is met if there is a recital of facts constituting the offense charged and determinative of the jurisdiction of the committee.

The complainants accused the seven justices of allegedly violating the Constitution, saying they are fully aware that impeachment is the only mode or process of removing impeachable officials, like the Chief Justice.

The justices were also charged with culpable violation of the Constitution because they usurped the constitutional power of the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) to vet the qualifications of applications for positions in the judiciary, and to nominate applicants to judicial positions to the exclusion of both the executive branch and the SC.

The decision of the Supreme Court was not judicious. It was malicious. It was not fair, but capricious. It was not collegial, but conspiratorial, Lagman said.

Meanwhile, de Castro, Peralta, Bersamin, Tijam, and Jardeleza were charged with betrayal of public trust for their refusal to inhibit themselves in the adjudication of the quo warranto petition.

The five magistrates testified against Sereno during the impeachment hearings at the lower chamber and approved the quo warranto petition during the oral arguments before the SC.

Several lawmakers have manifested that the impeachment complaint should be dismissed for insufficiency in substance.

ANGKLA Partylist Rep. Jess Manalo said the seven justices were bound by their constitutional mandate to decide on the quo warranto petition, noting that proceeding with the impeachment process is a violation of the separation of powers.

The respondents merely acted within the metes and bounds of judicial power set by the Constitution. To prosecute justices who have acted within these metes and bounds of judicial power set by the Constitution would be a true violation of separation of powers, Manalo said.

Cavite Rep. Strike Revilla said the five justices, who testified before the House justice committee hearings on Sereno's impeachment, should not be punished for respecting a co-equal branch of government.

As resource persons, they helped this committee in performing its constitutional mandate. The five justices had in fact recognized the supremacy of the people, exercised through their duly chosen representatives, Revilla said.

Misamis Occidental Rep. Henry Oaminal argued that if the impeachment complaint succeeds, there will no longer be quorum in the SC and would eventually lead to political instability in the country.

Imagine, Mr. Chair, if this complaint will succeed, then there will no longer be quorum in the Supreme Court and in effect, it's as if there will no longer be an SC existing because it will take time to fill the vacant seats. Where now is the judicial independence and political stability in the country? Oaminal said.

Oaminal said that while the complaint is sufficient in form, it is insufficient in substance.

Last week, the committee voted and found the impeachment complaint sufficient in form. (PNA)

Source: Philippine News Agency

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