Justice committee begins determination of probable cause on CJ impeach bid

The House committee on justice, chaired by Rep. Reynaldo Umali (2nd District, Oriental Mindoro), on Wednesday started deliberation on the determination of probable cause on the impeachment complaint against Supreme Court Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno.

Committee members took turns interpellating complainant Atty. Lorenzo Gadon on the charges he filed against the Chief Justice which Gadon alleged constituted culpable violation of the Constitution, an impeachable offense.

Gadon accused Sereno of 27 acts amounting to impeachable offenses under four grounds, specifically culpable violation of the Constitution (11 acts); corruption (three acts); other high crimes (four acts); and betrayal of public trust (nine acts).

Justice panel members queried Gadon on his allegations against the Chief Justice which fall under the culpable violation of the Constitution, among which are the following:

1. Falsification of Resolution of the Supreme Court designating the Head for the Judiciary Decentralized Office (JDO) in the Seventh Judicial Region;

2. Falsification of the Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) of the Supreme Court in the Coalition of Associations of Senior Citizens in the Philippines versus the Commission on Election;

3. Falsification of the Resolution of the Supreme Court into allegation of involvement of four incumbent judges in the drug trade;

4. Delayed action on the numerous Petitions for Retirement Benefits of Justices and Judges, and the surviving spouses of Justices and Judges;

5. Delayed the Resolution of the Supreme Court on the request of the Secretary of Justice to transfer the Maute cases outside of Mindanao;

6. Failure to truthfully disclose Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth (SALN);

In his preliminary remarks, Umali said the committee would determine based on the evidence to be presented by the complainant and respondent whether there exist such facts and circumstances sufficient to engender a well-founded belief that an impeachable offense has been committed and that the respondent Chief Justice is guilty thereof.

This is the standard that we will use in determining whether or not the committee will proceed to draft the Articles of Impeachment against the Chief Justice and hold her for trial in the Senate acting as Impeachment Court, Umali said.

Umali explained that since there are only nine remaining session days before Congress goes on a Christmas break on December 13, the committee would allocate the next three hearing days to discuss charges of culpable violation of the Constitution and corruption and another three hearing days to deliberate on the allegations of other high crimes and betrayal of public trust.

Umali expressed hope that the House of Representatives would already conduct plenary vote on the justice committee report on the impeachment complaint against Chief Justice Sereno by December 13.

Rep. Rodel Batocabe (Party-list, AKO BICOL) pointed out that an impeachment proceeding is the only way for an ordinary citizen to make an erring Chief Justice of the Supreme Court answerable for his wrongdoings.

Deputy Speaker Gwendolyn Garcia (3rd District, Cebu) commended the House leadership led by Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez (1st District, Davao del Norte) and Majority Leader Rodolfo Farinas (1st District, IlocosNorte), and Umali for studiously adhering to the rules and procedures in impeachment in the interest of fairness and the pursuit of truth and justice.

Source: House of Representatives

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