House divided over CJ

Justice panel sues for time to fine-tune impeachment

THE House committee on justice will be unable to deliberate on the articles of impeachment against Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno on Wednesday as scheduled because of disagreements over what specific grounds to include in the document.

“We have yet to finish the articles of impeachment because there are some disagreements on how many grounds we will include,” said panel chairman and Oriental Mindoro Rep. Reynaldo Umali. “The whole idea is to present it as comprehensive.”

The House justice panel was supposed to meet today (Wednesday) to approve the committee report on the finding of probable cause to unseat Sereno, as well as the articles of impeachment.

But Umali said the committee would need more time to come up with a “comprehensive” impeachment document that will support their findings that they indeed have a “very strong case” against Sereno.

He said the adoption of the committee report, which includes the articles of impeachment, will be scheduled for Monday or Tuesday next week.

“We will be ready by then. When we schedule that hearing, either on Monday or Tuesday, we [will be] ready to present the articles of impeachment,” Umali said.

The impeachment complainant, lawyer Larry Gadon, accused Sereno of “culpable violation of the Constitution, betrayal of public trust, corruption, and other high crimes” for her alleged lapses, including the alleged untruthful declaration of her wealth in the Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth.

The committee vice chairpersons, Reps. Vicente Veloso of Leyte, Doy Leachon of Oriental Mindoro, Henry Oaminal of Misamis Occidental, Arnulfo Fuentebella of Camarines Sur, and Strike Revilla of Cavite, composed the small working body tasked to draft the committee report and articles of impeachment.

Last week, the committee voted 38-2 to find probable cause for the impeachment complaint.

Sereno on Tuesday lashed out at her critics for insisting that she resign instead of giving her day in court during an impeachment trial.

“The call for me to resign is not founded on reason but only on convenience,” Sereno told students at the University of Negros Occidental Recoletos in Bacolod City.

“Some [of my critics] don’t want to go through the right constitutional process of impeachment because it will hurt them. They want peace. But what is peace if there is no justice?” Sereno said. “Peace is not the absence of conflict; peace is the presence of justice.”

Sereno’s remarks came after judges and court employees called for her resignation during the nationwide “Red Monday’s” flag ceremonies.

Erwin Ocson, president of the SC Employees Association, cited as a grievance the alleged delays in the approval of workers’ promotions and benefits under Sereno’s leadership.

Sereno turned down the groups’ plea for her to make the “supreme sacrifice” of stepping down.

Sereno also said she was “very, very proud” of the judges of Negros Occidental regional trial courts, who said they will remain impartial as she battles ouster attempts.

The Negros Occidental Regional Trial Court Judges Association on Monday called for sobriety and prudence and urged their fellow judges to be non-partisan and allow due process to take its course.

Sereno, who is on indefinite leave, faces impeachment trial before the Senate once the House votes to transmit the impeachment complaint against her for trial.

She also faces a quo warranto petition before the Supreme Court, which seeks her removal on the basis of allegations that she was not qualified for the position when she was appointed in 2012. The Supreme Court has directed her to respond to the petition.

Topics: House committee , impeachment , Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno , Oriental Mindoro Rep. Reynaldo Umali
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