MANILA A possible impeachment trial is in the offing as the chairman of the House justice committee expressed confidence that the lower chamber would have enough votes to approve the articles of impeachment against Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno at the plenary.
"The writing is already on the wall. It will not be difficult to obtain the one-third vote (in favor of the articles of impeachment against Sereno). This will probably happen after the [Lenten] break," Oriental Mindoro Rep. Reynaldo Umali said in a press conference on Monday.
"You can safely conclude we will overwhelmingly approve this committee report and the accompanying articles of impeachment," Umali added.
Under the rules on impeachment, a vote of one-third, or at least 98 lawmakers, of the total number of House members is needed to send the impeachment complaint to the Senate.
Earlier, the House justice committee voted 33-1 to approve its 45-page committee report finding probable cause to impeach the chief magistrate, as well as accompanying 56-page articles of impeachment detailing the charges against her that would be elevated to the Senate for trial.
Both the committee report and the articles of impeachment will be submitted to the House plenary for another round of approval.
When asked about the pending quo warranto case against Sereno before the Supreme Court (SC), Umali said the impeachment proceedings will be rendered "functus officio" should her appointment be deemed invalid.
"That should ease up the process and unburden the country of a dysfunctional chief justice," Umali said.
He said they are nonetheless ready for a possible impeachment trial and that they have a "very strong case" against Sereno.
Umali said the six articles of impeachment that the committee has prepared will be the foundation in prosecuting this impeachment case before the Senate, as an impeachment court.
The first article of impeachment charges Sereno for culpable violation of the constitution and betrayal of public trust for non-filing and non-disclosure of her Sworn Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth.
For the second article, Sereno was charged with corruption and betrayal of public trust for misusing a total of PHP18 million in public funds in the purchase of a brand-new Toyota Land Cruiser, hiring of IT consultant for a fee of over PHP11 million, and using Shangrila Boracay for the meeting of ASEAN chief justices.
Under the third article, Sereno was accused of arrogating the collegial power of the Supreme Court en banc by issuing resolutions and order without the approval of the body, or contrary to what was agreed by the en banc.
In the fourth article, Sereno was charged with deliberately and maliciously abusing her position as Chief Justice and ex officio chairperson of the Judicial and Bar Council when she excluded then Solicitor General Francis Jardeleza from the shortlist of nominees to the vacant SC post, among others.
The fifth article accuses Sereno of deliberately undermining and violating the principle of separation of powers among the three branches of government when, among others, she interfered in the House probe on the misuse of tobacco excise tax funds by the Ilocos Norte government by asking Court of Appeals justices to challenge the House order by elevating the issue before the SC.
The panel charged Sereno with betrayal of public trust by wilfully and deliberately failing to comply with her oath of office and by tyrannical abuse of discretionary power.
Source: Philippine News Agency