MANILA The camp of Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno urged the House of Representatives to bring to a plenary vote the articles of impeachment against the country's top magistrate and immediately transmit these to the Senate so the trial can begin to determine whether or not there is basis to remove her from office.
In a statement, lawyer Josa Deinla, one of Sereno's spokespersons, said pro-impeachment lawmakers should expedite the process and prove their case before the Senate, which, together with the House, has the exclusive authority to discipline all impeachable officers for any impeachable offense.
Deinla said that for her part, the Chief Justice is now in the advanced stage of preparation for her looming impeachment trial in the Senate.
Sereno, who is currently on indefinite leave, earlier said her leave is meant for her to prepare her legal defense in her impeachment case, which is expected to reach the Senate anytime soon.
Last Feb. 27, 13 justices urged Sereno to take an indefinite leave during their en banc session.
The impeachment complaint was filed by lawyer Larry Gadon who claimed that Sereno did not declare in her SALN the exorbitant lawyer's fees of USD745,000 (PHP37 million) which she received from the Philippine government.
The impeachment complainant said the issue of SALN declaration is the strongest case presented against Sereno.
The complaint also alleged that Sereno committed corruption when she, among other things, used public funds to finance her extravagant and lavish lifestyle by ordering the purchase of a brand-new luxurious Toyota Land Cruiser 2017 model as her personal vehicle, amounting to more than PHP5 million; and stay in opulent hotels when attending conferences in the country and abroad.
According to Deinla, all the allegations laid down in the articles of impeachment could be effectively countered by the Chief Justice and her legal team.
The Chief Justice eagerly awaits the transmittal of the articles of impeachment to the Senate where she is ready to defend herself against the unfair, unjust and malicious allegations, which are the bases of the obviously biased impeachment proceedings conducted by the House Committee on Justice, Deinla said.
The lady lawyer said the articles of impeachment drafted and approved by the House Committee on Justice, which is chaired by Oriental Mindoro Rep. Reynaldo Umali, consist of allegations that do not even constitute impeachable offenses.
Deinla maintained that the Chief Justice has not done anything unconstitutional or impeachable to merit her removal from office.
The Chief Justice, she said, strongly believes that the truth is on her side.
The House of Representatives' justice committee on Monday approved the committee report along with the articles of impeachment against Sereno.
Thirty-three members voted in favor of Leyte Rep. Vicente Veloso's motion to approve the 45 page-committee report detailing the entire impeachment proceeding, as well as the 56-page articles of impeachment that will be filed in the Senate impeachment court.
Only Quezon City Rep. Jose Christopher Belmonte voted against the motion.
The committee report and the articles of impeachment will be submitted to the plenary for another round of approval. 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.
Source: Philippine News Agency