A public trial

There are questions that must be answered in connection with the impeachment case against Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno.

Those are provided for under the primary law—culpable violation of the Constitution, betrayal of public trust, bribery and other high crimes. Can Sereno be impeached? Did she betray public trust? Did she commit anything that would erode public trust in her integrity or rectitude? Is there probable cause in the complaint of lawyer Larry Gadon to move the case forward?

Before we can answer these questions, there is need to define betrayal of public trust. Its concept is so broad that all I can say is that an impeachable public official can be guilty of anything that would make the public lose faith in him or her.

For instance, if such an official gets drunk in public, that would also constitute betrayal of public trust since public officials are supposed to be sober.

Impeachment is a public trial. That is the reason that the process must begin at the House of Representatives, where precisely the representatives of the people are. If the required votes are obtained, the case is elevated to the Senate for trial. Thus, if the two-thirds votes are satisfied, the officials gets convicted and is ousted from office. This is what happened in the case of Corona.

To answer the question I raised in the case of Sereno, can we believe that the chief justice committed betrayal of public trust? Can we believe the testimony of Associate Justice Teresita Leonardo-de Castro?

Aside from De Castro, the panel also invited Associate Justices Francis Jardeleza and Noel Tijam, and retired Justice Arturo Brion.

I think from the testimony of De Castro, there is already probable cause to impeach Sereno.

The argument of the Sereno camp that de Castro was biased because she was bypassed for chief justice. But I would say that if there is anybody who should complain, it should be Justice Antonio Carpio.

De Castro testified on some of the 27 allegations raised by Gadon against Sereno, including the administrative case involving Sereno’s order creating a regional court administration office in Cebu without the High Court’s collegial approval. This alone constituted a violation of the law since only Congress can create an office. De Castro also testified on the restraining order on the case of a senior citizens’ party-list group that was disqualified in the last elections.

The justice also testified on the merits of the decision she had penned that declared unconstitutional the clustering of shortlisted nominees made by the Judicial and Bar Council. Sereno headed this last year.

In connection with the JBC’s decision not to include then-Solicitor General Francis Jardeleza in the list of nominees to the SC, De Castro discussed the merits of her opinion that raised an integrity issue against Jardeleza. That is the reason why Jardeleza was invited by the House panel.

The Sereno camp insists all these did not constitute impeachable offenses.

My gulay, considering the fact that the Senate trial is public, I would go as far as saying that Sereno could be convicted by the Senate. Impeachment is always a political exercise.

* * *

The Department of Justice will investigate the controversial P3.5-billion dengue vaccine project of the Department of Health that poses health risks to children already injected but without history of the disease.

Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre said he would tap the National Bureau of Investigation and conduct a probe to determine possible liabilities of officials behind the project that was approved by former Health Secretary Janet Garin and authorized by former President Aquino.

Aguirre said he had received complaints from parents of children injected with the Dengvaxia. Initial information showed that the program was approved by Garin and Aquino despite objections from medical experts due to lack of certification from the World Health Organization.

It was also learned that the DOH was properly warned about the possible effects of the vaccine. Still, the DOH approved the program.

This puts in peril over 700,000 school children, who received the shots!

Record showed that during one of his trips to Europe, President BS Aquino met with Sanofi of France in Paris, This led to the P3.5-billion deal.

The Senate, through health committee chairman JV Ejercito, is also planning to conduct an inquiry into the program. Local government units are now alarmed such that they are asking Congress to investigate.

Those behind the program must be held accountable for this!

* * *

The Social Weather Stations has come out with the disturbing figure that 47 percent of Filipino families consider themselves poor, with not enough to eat.

This means that statistically, 10.1 million Filipino families live below the poverty level.

But Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque, whose job is to make President Duterte look good in the eyes of Filipinos, noted that the number of Filipinos who rated themselves poor is lower than the number during the Aquino administration.

Instead of doing something about it, Roque offered excuses that it was due to the depreciation of the peso and the increasing cost of commodities.

* * *

If you have not done your Christmas shopping yet, forget it. Traffic is bad all over, and commuting is so stressful.

Don’t even think of going to Divisoria. It will give you a heart attack. 

Topics: Iimpeachment case , Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno

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