House panel starts impeach hearing vs. SC justices

MANILA The House of Representatives' justice committee on Tuesday started its initial hearing on the impeachment complaints lodged against Supreme Court (SC) Chief Justice Teresita Leonardo-de Castro and six associate justices for betrayal of public trust and culpable violation of the Constitution.

The panel, chaired by Oriental Mindoro Rep. Doy Leachon, began its deliberations on the form and substance of the complaints filed by Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, Ifugao Rep. Teddy Baguilat Jr., and Magdalo Rep. Gary Alejano.

Aside from de Castro, also facing impeachment raps are 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.

In his opening speech, Leachon told the committee members to observe higher standards of discernment in performing its constitutional duty to determine whether the complaints are factual, legal and sufficient in form and substance.

We are respecting the individual appreciation of each member in order to determine whether the complaints would pass the sufficiency in form and substance, Leachon added.

Leachon vowed to treat the impeachment complaints with "utmost transparency and impartiality.

This committee would treat your impeachment complaints with utmost transparency and of course with utmost impartiality, Leachon said.

The complainants said that the SC decision dated May 11, 2018 which ousted Sereno by granting the quo warranto petition is not only errant, it is also malevolent. It is not only bereft of constitutional anchorage, it is also a blatant subterfuge, an orchestrated charade.

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.

They also said a petition for quo warranto is "anathema" to the constitutional mandate that the power to impeach is solely vested with the Congress.

De Castro, Peralta, Bersamin, Tijam and Jardeleza are also 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 House Committee on Justice hearing and approved the quo warranto petition during the oral arguments before the SC.

Akbayan Rep. Tom Villarin was also a complainant, but the justice committee did not recognize him as one because he was not able to sign the complaints.

Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo also said she wanted the impeachment proceedings expedited so as not to disturb the legislative agenda of the lower chamber. (PNA)

Source: Philippine News Agency

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